Toward a Deep Science of Affect and Motivation

  • Brian KnutsonEmail author
  • Tara Srirangarajan
Part of the Nebraska Symposium on Motivation book series (NSM, volume 66)


We propose a “deep science” approach that can link neural, affective, and motivational levels of analysis. Recent neuroimaging research has linked neural activity to anticipatory affective experience (i.e., in the Nucleus Accumbens or NAcc to positive arousal and in the Anterior Insula or AIns to general or negative arousal). Activity in circuits implicated in anticipatory affect further predicts motivated behavior in diverse scenarios (with NAcc activity predicting approach and AIns activity predicting avoidance). More extended links can now be forged from lower levels of analysis related to neurochemistry (e.g., release of dopamine and norepinephrine in target regions), as well as to higher levels of analysis related to aggregate choice (e.g., increases versus decreases in market demand). Innovation of new methods with matching resolution has enabled the linkage of previously disparate levels of analysis, which may most rapidly yield applications capable of improving health and welfare.


Striatum Insula Frontal Neuroimaging Human 



We thank Ingrid Haas, Yuan Chang Leong, Maital Neta, and Jeanne Tsai for feedback on earlier drafts. During manuscript preparation, the author was supported by a Wu Tsai Stanford Neurosciences Institute Grant to the NeuroChoice Initiative.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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