ICS Colloquium: Marta Čeko PhD, University of Colorado Boulder

Title: Using fMRI and Predictive Modeling to Uncover how Negative Affect is Encoded in the Human Brain

Presenter: Marta Čeko, PhD, Assistant Research Professor, Institute of Cognitive Science, University of Colorado Boulder

Abstract: Understanding how human affect is encoded in the brain is a central neuroscientific question. Psychological theories have focused on generalized negative valence as a cross-modal construct, and the existence of generalized ‘negative affect’ in the brain is widely assumed. On the other hand, different affective stimuli activate differentiable neural populations and pathways in animal studies and some clinical effects are found only with specific aversive stimulus types. Studies have thus provided evidence for both generalized and stimulus-type-specific negative affect. However, by focusing on these accounts separately—and typically with only one or two stimulus types tested in the same individuals—inferences about the nature of affect coding in the human brain have been limited. In this talk, I will present evidence for an integrated co-existence of a generalized and stimulus-type specific systems, and their joint contribution to the conscious experience of aversion. Using multiple stimulus types of different intensities, combined with fMRI and predictive modeling, we identified parallel brain systems encoding stimulus-type-specific negative affect in early sensory pathways and generalized negative affect in a distributed set of limbic, midline, forebrain, insular, and somatosensory regions. Further evidence will be presented for the importance of both types of patterns in predicting subjective experience, for the specificity of these brain patterns to negatively valenced affect rather than general salience or arousal, and for the robustness and generalizability of brain models to predict negative affect in independent datasets. Together, this talk will provide an integrated account of how negative affect is constructed in the brain and show how this type of research can offer preliminary predictive neuromarkers for future studies.

Bio: Dr. Čeko is an Assistant Research Professor at the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. She completed her B.Sc. in Molecular Biology at the University of Vienna, Austria and M.Sc. in Medical Neuroscience at the Charité University in Berlin, Germany. She completed her Ph.D. in Neuroscience at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, supervised by Drs Catherine Bushnell and Petra Schweinhardt, and her postdoctoral training at NIH with Catherine Bushnell and at CU Boulder with Dr. Tor Wager. Her current research uses fMRI and statistical learning approaches to understand the neural basis of negative affect behaviors and regulation in humans. In addition, Dr. Ceko is interested in combining fMRI with fNIRS and other more wearable sensors to understand human affective behaviors in naturalistic settings.

Friday, February 24 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Muenzinger Psychology, D430
1905 Colorado Avenue, Boulder, CO 80309

Event Type



Science & Technology, Research & Innovation


Students, Faculty, Alumni, Graduate Students, Postdoc

College, School & Unit

Graduate School


ICS, ICSColloquiaSeries



Institute of Cognitive Science


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