Maital Neta

Hometown: Monterey, CA
Undergrad: UCLA, B.S. in Psychobiology (2002)
Grad: Dartmouth College, Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience (2010)
Thesis Lab: Dr. Paul J. Whalen (
Thesis Description: Behavioral, psychophysiological, and neural responses to ambiguously valenced facial expressions


In my graduate work, I examined psychophysiological and neural responses to ambiguity resolution in the domain of emotional facial expressions. Specifically, although some expressions provide clear predictive information that something good (e.g., happy) or bad (e.g., angry) will happen, other expressions, like surprise, have predicted both positive (e.g., birthday party) and negative (e.g., car accident) events for us in the past. When presented in the absence of contextual information, these ambiguously valenced expressions can be used to delineate a valence bias: ambiguous stimuli are stably interpreted negatively by some people and positively by others. I demonstrated that the “early, more automatic” interpretation of surprised faces is generally biased negatively. Our working hypothesis is that a positive interpretation, then, requires an additional regulatory process. Moreover, we showed that a domain-general (i.e., not specifically emotion-related) control network, namely, the cingulo-opercular network, is recruited when making valence judgments about ambiguously valenced stimuli. My research in the Petersen lab examines the functional role of this control network, in the context of ambiguity as well as other feedback-related control signals. My goal is to connect my prior work examining emotional ambiguity with ongoing research in my current laboratory using resting-state functional connectivity to relate task effects to functional brain networks. 

Curriculum Vitae