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Psychol Sci. 2002 Mar;13(2):135-41.

Ecstasy and agony: activation of the human amygdala in positive and negative emotion.

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Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


Considerable evidence indicates that the amygdala plays a critical role in negative, aversive human emotions. Although researchers have speculated that the amygdala plays a role in positive emotion, little relevant evidence exists. We examined the neural correlates of positive and negative emotion using positron emission tomography (PET), focusing on the amygdala. Participants viewed positive and negative photographs, as well as interesting and uninteresting neutral photographs, during PET scanning. The left amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex were activated during positive emotion, and bilateral amygdala activation occurred during negative emotion. High-interest, unusual photographs also elicited left-amygdala activation, a finding consistent with suggestions that the amygdala is involved in vigilance reactions to associatively ambiguous stimuli. The current results constitute the first neuroimaging evidence for a role of the amygdala in positive emotional reactions elicited by visual stimuli. Although the amygdala appears to play a more extensive role in negative emotion, it is involved in positive emotion as well.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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