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A neuromodulatory role for the human amygdala in processing emotional facial expressions.

J S Morris, K J Friston, C Büchel, C D Frith, A W Young, A J Calder, R J Dolan
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/121.1.47 47-57 First published online: 1 January 1998


Localized amygdalar lesions in humans produce deficits in the recognition of fearful facial expressions. We used functional neuroimaging to test two hypotheses: (i) that the amygdala and some of its functionally connected structures mediate specific neural responses to fearful expressions; (ii) that the early visual processing of emotional faces can be influenced by amygdalar activity. Normal subjects were scanned using PET while they performed a gender discrimination task involving static grey-scale images of faces expressing varying degrees of fear or happiness. In support of the first hypothesis, enhanced activity in the left amygdala, left pulvinar, left anterior insula and bilateral anterior cingulate gyri was observed during the processing of fearful faces. Evidence consistent with the second hypothesis was obtained by a demonstration that amygdalar responses predict expression-specific neural activity in extrastriate cortex.