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Dynamic stimuli demonstrate a categorical representation of facial expression in the amygdala

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DateE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jan 2014
DatePublished (current) - Apr 2014
Number of pages6
Pages (from-to)47-52
Early online date18/01/14
Original languageEnglish


Face-selective regions in the amygdala and posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) are strongly implicated in the processing of transient facial signals, such as expression. Here, we measured neural responses in participants while they viewed dynamic changes in facial expression. Our aim was to explore how facial expression is represented in different face-selective regions. Short movies were generated by morphing between faces posing a neutral expression and a prototypical expression of a basic emotion (either anger, disgust, fear, happiness or sadness). These dynamic stimuli were presented in block design in the following four stimulus conditions: (1) same-expression change, same-identity, (2) same-expression change, different-identity, (3) different-expression change, same-identity, and (4) different-expression change, different-identity. So, within a same-expression change condition the movies would show the same change in expression whereas in the different-expression change conditions each movie would have a different change in expression. Facial identity remained constant during each movie but in the different identity conditions the facial identity varied between each movie in a block. The amygdala, but not the posterior STS, demonstrated a greater response to blocks in which each movie morphed from neutral to a different emotion category compared to blocks in which each movie morphed to the same emotion category. Neural adaptation in the amygdala was not affected by changes in facial identity. These results are consistent with a role of the amygdala in category-based representation of facial expressions of emotion.

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Research areas

  • Face, Expression, Emotion, fMRI

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