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Neuroimage. 2001 Nov;14(5):1070-9.

Arousal dissociates amygdala and hippocampal fear responses: evidence from simultaneous fMRI and skin conductance recording.

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Department of Medical Physics, The Brain Dynamics Centre, 2145, Australia.


The experience and appraisal of threat is essential to human and animal survival. Lesion evidence suggests that the subjective experience of fear relies upon amygdala-medial frontal activity (as well as autonomic arousal), whereas the factual context of threat stimuli depends upon hippocampal-lateral frontal activity. This amygdala-hippocampus dissociation has not previously been demonstrated in vivo. To explore this differentiation, we employed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and simultaneous skin conductance response (SCR) measures of phasic arousal, while subjects viewed fearful versus neutral faces. fMRI activity was subaveraged according to whether or not the subject evoked an arousal SCR to each discrete face stimulus. The fMRI-with arousal and fMRI-without arousal data provided a distinct differentiation of amygdala and hippocampal networks. Amygdala-medial frontal activity was observed only with SCRs, whereas hippocampus-lateral frontal activity occurred only in the absence of SCRs. The findings provide direct evidence for a dissociation between human amygdala and hippocampus networks in the visceral experience versus declarative fact processing of fear.

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