Current brain models of emotion processing hypothesize that positive (or approach-related) emotions are lateralized towards the left hemisphere, whereas negative (or withdrawal-related) emotions are lateralized towards the right hemisphere. Brain imaging studies, however, have so far failed to document such hemispheric lateralization. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, 14 female subjects viewed alternating blocks of emotionally valenced positive and negative pictures. When the experience of valence was equated for arousal, overall brain reactivity was lateralized towards the left hemisphere for positive pictures and towards the right hemisphere for negative pictures. This study provides direct support for the valence hypothesis, under conditions of equivalent arousal, by means of functional brain imaging.
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