Interactions Between Emotion, Motivation, And Cognition

Throughout our lives, emotional and motivational factors influence our thoughts and actions. Hence, there is a clear need to understand how emotion, motivation, and cognition interact in the human brain.

Knowledge of brain mechanisms underlying these interactions is not only relevant to our healthy lives but also has potential clinical relevance. In mental disorders such as addiction, anxiety, and depression, cognitive impairments due to compromised emotional and/or motivational processing are extensively reported. Therefore, a deeper understanding of brain mechanisms underlying interactions between emotion, motivation and cognition will help us better understand the anomalies in neurobiological mechanisms associated with these disorders and potentially improve treatment strategies.

Despite this, our understanding of how these factors-interact in the brain is rudimentary. This is because the majority of the past work focused on investigating emotional, motivational and cognitive processing in an independent fashion.

Our work attempts to fill some of these critical gaps in our knowledge base by investigating interactions between emotion, motivation, and cognition in the healthy adult human brain. We primarily employ behavioral and functional MRI (fMRI) methods combined with psycho-physiological measurements (e.g., skin conductance responses) in our research. Additionally, we focus on understanding how individual differences in self-reported anxiety and reward-sensitivity influence these interactions.

Our most recent work is focused on investigating interactions between reward motivation and negative emotional processing.


During reward and no-reward conditions signaled by an advanced cue, participants were asked to ignore the central negative or neutral distractor image and decide whether the peripheral bars were of the same or different orientation.


Potential reward reduced the adverse impact of negative distractors on task performance (Padmala et al., 2017).

PI: Dr.Srikanth Padmala(Webpage)