Stimulus-driven and strategic neural responses to fearful and happy facial expressions in humans

Williams, Mark A., McGlone, Francis, Abbott, David F. and Mattingley, Jason B. (2008) Stimulus-driven and strategic neural responses to fearful and happy facial expressions in humans. European Journal of Neuroscience, 27 11: 3074-3082. doi:10.1111/j.1460-9568.2008.06264.x

Author Williams, Mark A.
McGlone, Francis
Abbott, David F.
Mattingley, Jason B.
Title Stimulus-driven and strategic neural responses to fearful and happy facial expressions in humans
Journal name European Journal of Neuroscience   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0953-816X
Publication date 2008-06-28
Year available 2008
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2008.06264.x
Open Access Status
Volume 27
Issue 11
Start page 3074
End page 3082
Total pages 9
Editor B. Everitt
Christopher E. Henderson
Place of publication Oxford, England
Publisher Wiley- Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Language eng
Subject C1
170101 Biological Psychology (Neuropsychology, Psychopharmacology, Physiological Psychology)
970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
Abstract The human amygdala responds selectively to consciously and unconsciously perceived facial expressions, particularly those that convey potential threat such as fear and anger. In many social situations, multiple faces with varying expressions confront observers yet little is known about the neural mechanisms involved in encoding several faces simultaneously. Here we used event-related fMRI to measure neural activity in pre-defined regions of interest as participants searched multi-face arrays for a designated target expression (fearful or happy). We conducted separate analyses to examine activations associated with each of the four multi-face arrays independent of target expression (stimulus-driven effects), and activations arising from the search for each of the target expressions, independent of the display type (strategic effects). Comparisons across display types, reflecting stimulus-driven influences on visual search, revealed activity in the amygdala and superior temporal sulcus (STS). By contrast, strategic demands of the task did not modulate activity in either the amygdala or STS. These results imply an interactive threat-detection system involving several neural regions. Crucially, activity in the amygdala increased significantly when participants correctly detected the target expression, compared with trials in which the identical target was missed, suggesting that the amygdala has a limited capacity for extracting affective facial expressions.
Keyword amygdala
facial expression
visual attention
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: 2009 Higher Education Research Data Collection
Queensland Brain Institute Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 13 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 12 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Thu, 19 Mar 2009, 21:05:26 EST by Debra McMurtrie on behalf of Queensland Brain Institute