Amygdala responses to fearful and happy facial expressions under conditions of binocular suppression

Williams, MA, Morris, AP, McGlone, F, Abbott, DF and Mattingley, JB (2004) Amygdala responses to fearful and happy facial expressions under conditions of binocular suppression. Journal of Neuroscience, 24 12: 2898-2904. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4977-03.2004

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Author Williams, MA
Morris, AP
McGlone, F
Abbott, DF
Mattingley, JB
Title Amygdala responses to fearful and happy facial expressions under conditions of binocular suppression
Journal name Journal of Neuroscience   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0270-6474
Publication date 2004-01-01
Year available 2004
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4977-03.2004
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 24
Issue 12
Start page 2898
End page 2904
Total pages 7
Place of publication Washington
Publisher Soc Neuroscience
Language eng
Abstract The human amygdala plays a crucial role in processing affective information conveyed by sensory stimuli. Facial expressions of fear and anger, which both signal potential threat to an observer, result in significant increases in amygdala activity, even when the faces are unattended or presented briefly and masked. It has been suggested that afferent signals from the retina travel to the amygdala via separate cortical and subcortical pathways, with the subcortical pathway underlying unconscious processing. Here we exploited the phenomenon of binocular rivalry to induce complete suppression of affective face stimuli presented to one eye. Twelve participants viewed brief, rivalrous visual displays in which a fearful, happy, or neutral face was presented to one eye while a house was presented simultaneously to the other. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study activation in the amygdala and extrastriate visual areas for consciously perceived versus suppressed face and house stimuli. Activation within the fusiform and parahippocampal gyri increased significantly for perceived versus suppressed faces and houses, respectively. Amygdala activation increased bilaterally in response to fearful versus neutral faces, regardless of whether the face was perceived consciously or suppressed because of binocular rivalry. Amygdala activity also increased significantly for happy versus neutral faces, but only when the face was suppressed. This activation pattern suggests that the amygdala has a limited capacity to differentiate between specific facial expressions when it must rely on information received via a subcortical route. We suggest that this limited capacity reflects a tradeoff between specificity and speed of processing.
Keyword Neurosciences
binocular rivalry
unconscious perception
Human Extrastriate Cortex
Fusiform Face Area
Emotional Faces
Visual Areas
Q-Index Code C1
Institutional Status Non-UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) - Collection
Queensland Brain Institute Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 236 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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Created: Wed, 17 Oct 2007, 22:45:48 EST