Failure to sustain positive affect over time is a hallmark of depression and other psychopathologies, but the mechanisms supporting the ability to sustain positive emotional responses are poorly understood. Here, we investigated the neural correlates associated with the persistence of positive affect in the real world by conducting two experiments in humans: an fMRI task of reward responses and an experience-sampling task measuring emotional responses to a reward obtained in the field. The magnitude of DLPFC engagement to rewards administered in the laboratory predicted reactivity of real-world positive emotion following a reward administered in the field. Sustained ventral striatum engagement in the laboratory positively predicted the duration of real-world positive emotional responses. These results suggest that common pathways are associated with the unfolding of neural processes over seconds and with the dynamics of emotions experienced over minutes. Examining such dynamics may facilitate a better understanding of the brain-behavior associations underlying emotion.
The Neurodynamics of Affect in the Laboratory Predicts Persistence of Real-World Emotional Responses