Distributed neural system for emotional intelligence revealed by lesion mapping

Aron K. Barbey, Roberto Colom, Jordan Grafman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cognitive neuroscience has made considerable progress in understanding the neural architecture of human intelligence, identifying a broadly distributed network of frontal and parietal regions that support goal-directed, intelligent behavior. However, the contributions of this network to social and emotional aspects of intellectual function remain to be well characterized. Here we investigated the neural basis of emotional intelligence in 152 patients with focal brain injuries using voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping. Latent variable modeling was applied to obtain measures of emotional intelligence, general intelligence and personality from the Mayer, Salovey, Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale and the Neuroticism-Extroversion-Openness Inventory, respectively. Regression analyses revealed that latent scores for measures of general intelligence and personality reliably predicted latent scores for emotional intelligence. Lesion mapping results further indicated that these convergent processes depend on a shared network of frontal, temporal and parietal brain regions. The results support an integrative framework for understanding the architecture of executive, social and emotional processes and make specific recommendations for the interpretation and application of the MSCEIT to the study of emotional intelligence in health and disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbernss124
Pages (from-to)265-272
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Emotional intelligence
  • General intelligence
  • Voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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