Psychological frameworks conceptualize emotion along 2 dimensions, "valence" and "arousal." Arousal invokes a single axis of intensity increasing from neutral to maximally arousing. Valence can be described variously as a bipolar continuum, as independent positive and negative dimensions, or as hedonic value (distance from neutral). In this study, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to characterize neural activity correlating with arousal and with distinct models of valence during presentation of affective word stimuli. Our results extend observations in the chemosensory domain suggesting a double dissociation in which subregions of orbitofrontal cortex process valence, whereas amygdala preferentially processes arousal. In addition, our data support the physiological validity of descriptions of valence along independent axes or as absolute distance from neutral but fail to support the validity of descriptions of valence along a bipolar continuum. © The Author 2006. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.