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Brain Res Rev. 2008 Jun;58(1):57-70. Epub 2007 Nov 12.

Predictors of amygdala activation during the processing of emotional stimuli: a meta-analysis of 385 PET and fMRI studies.

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  • 1Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK.


Although amygdala activity has been purported to be modulated by affective and non-affective factors, considerable controversy remains on its precise functional nature. We conducted a meta-analysis of 385 functional neuroimaging studies of emotional processing, examining the effects of experimental characteristics on the probability of detecting amygdala activity. All emotional stimuli were associated with higher probability of amygdala activity than neutral stimuli. Comparable effects were observed for most negative and positive emotions, however there was a higher probability of activation for fear and disgust relative to happiness. The level of attentional processing affected amygdala activity, as passive processing was associated with a higher probability of activation than active task instructions. Gustatory-olfactory and visual stimulus modalities increased the probability of activation relative to internal stimuli. Aversive learning increased the probability of amygdala activation as well. There was some evidence of hemispheric specialization with a relative left-lateralization for stimuli containing language and a relative right-lateralization for masked stimuli. Methodological variables, such as type of analysis and magnet strength, were also independent predictors of amygdala activation.

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