The periaqueductal gray (PAG) is less referred in relationship with emotions than other parts of the brain (e.g. cortex, thalamus, amygdala), most probably because of the difficulty to reach and manipulate this small and deeply lying structure. After defining how to evaluate emotions, we have reviewed the literature and summarized data of the PAG contribution to the feeling of emotions focusing on the behavioral and neurochemical considerations. In humans, emotions can be characterized by three main domains: the physiological changes, the communicative expressions, and the subjective experiences. In animals, the physiological changes can mainly be studied. Indeed, early studies have considered the PAG as an important center of the emotions-related autonomic and motoric processes. However, in vivo imaging have changed our view by highlighting the PAG as a significant player in emotions-related cognitive processes. The PAG lies on the crossroad of networks important in the regulation of emotions and therefore it should not be neglected. In vivo imaging represents a good tool for studying this structure in living organism and may reveal new information about its role beyond its importance in the neurovegetative regulation.
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