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Neuroimage. 2005 Jul 15;26(4):1193-200. Epub 2005 Apr 20.

The role of the human amygdala in the production of conditioned fear responses.

Author information

  • 1Unit on Functional Imaging Methods, Laboratory of Brain and Cognition, National Institute of Mental Health, Building 10, Room 1D80, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA. knightd@mail.nih.gov


The amygdala plays a central role in the acquisition and expression of fear memories. Laboratory animal studies indicate that the amygdala both receives sensory information and produces learned behavioral and autonomic fear responses. However, prior functional imaging research in humans has largely focused on amygdala activity elicited by fearful stimuli, giving less attention to this region's role in the production of fear responses. In contrast, the present study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the amygdala's influence on the generation of conditional fear responses. Significant increases in amygdala activity were observed during the production of conditioned (learning-related), but not orienting, nonspecific, and unconditioned (nonlearning-related) skin conductance responses. Further, greater amygdala activity was demonstrated during conditioned response production than during conditioned stimulus presentation. These results suggest the amygdala not only responds to fearful stimuli, but also generates learning-related changes in human autonomic fear expression.

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