We tend to simulate or recall others' appraisals through auditory verbal imagery (AVI) process to react appropriately. In particular, the ability to imagine derogatory appraisals by others may be critically important for social survival. In this study, we investigated the neural correlates implicated in the processing of unpleasant emotion related to derogatory remark and its self-directedness during AVI process. Twenty-three right-handed healthy human subjects participated in our study. We asked each subject to imagine hearing one's own or another person's voice saying derogatory or non-derogatory neutral remarks during the scanning of functional magnetic imaging. A test of the interaction between derogatory emotion and its self-directedness revealed significant activation of the amygdala. Additionally, we observed decreased neural activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) during imagery of derogatory remarks compared to neutral remarks. Our findings indicate an important role of the amygdala in the processing of unpleasant emotion or self-relevance of information in the real world may also be expanded to the processing of self-directedness of unpleasant emotion in the imagined world, and thereby contribute to human higher social cognitive process. This study also suggests that deactivation of ACC may enable us to enact vivid affective responses, and thereby contribute to an effective simulation of social interaction.
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