Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society

Brief Communications

Amygdala activation to masked happy facial expressions

MARIO F. JURUENAa1a2, VINCENT P. GIAMPIETROa1, STEPHEN D. SMITHa3, SIMON A. SURGULADZEa1, JEFFREY A. DALTONa1, PHILIP J. BENSONa4, ANTHONY J. CLEAREa1 and CYNTHIA H.Y. FUa1 c1

a1 Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom

a2 Department of Neurosciences and Behavioural Sciences, School of Medicine of Ribeirao Preto, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

a3 Department of Psychology, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Canada

a4 School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom

Abstract

The amygdala has a key role in automatic non-conscious processing of emotions. Highly salient emotional stimuli elicit amygdala activity, and happy faces are among the most rapidly perceived facial expressions. In backward masking paradigms, an image is presented briefly and then masked by another stimulus. However, reports of amygdala responses to masked happy faces have been mixed. In the present study, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine amygdala activation to masked happy, sad, and neutral facial expressions. Masked happy faces elicited greater amygdala activation bilaterally as compared to masked sad faces. Our findings indicate that the amygdala is highly responsive to non-consciously perceived happy facial expressions. (JINS, 2010, 16, 383–387.)

(Received April 09 2009)

(Reviewed October 04 2009)

(Accepted October 07 2009)

Correspondence:

c1 Correspondence and reprint requests to: Cynthia H.Y. Fu, Institute of Psychiatry, 103 Denmark Hill, P074, London SE5 8AF UK. E-mail: c.fu@iop.kcl.ac.uk