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Behav Brain Res. 2012 Apr 15;229(2):433-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2012.01.009. Epub 2012 Jan 21.

Amygdala volume predicts patterns of eye fixation in rhesus monkeys.

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  • 1Emotional and Affective Neuroscience Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


In both human and nonhuman primates the eyes are a highly salient feature of the face, conveying identity, emotion and attentional direction of conspecifics. Studies have indicated that the amygdala plays an important role in eye contact, and amygdala dysfunction may underlie social deficits in disorders such as autism through effects on eye contact. In the present study we compared the volume of the amygdala in 32 juvenile rhesus monkeys to visual fixation patterns in a social memory paradigm. Amygdala volume was determined from manual traces of structural MRIs and fixation patterns were assessed using eyetracking methodology. A significant positive relationship was found between amygdala volume and fixation on both the face and the eye region. Amygdala volume was also found to relate to habituation across multiple presentations of different photographs of the same individual monkeys indicating a role in social memory. These data provide an important linkage between structural variation of amygdala and previous demonstrations of function in a nonhuman primate model.

Published by Elsevier B.V.

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