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Neuroimage. 2011 Feb 1;54(3):2503-13. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.10.013. Epub 2010 Oct 12.

Cognitive versus automatic mechanisms of mood induction differentially activate left and right amygdala.

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Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany.


The amygdala plays a key role in emotional processing. The specific contribution of the amygdala during the experience of one's own emotion, however, remains controversial and requires clarification. There is a long-standing debate on hemispheric lateralization of emotional processes, yet few studies to date directly investigated differential activation patterns for the left and right amygdala. Limited evidence supports right amygdala involvement in automatic processes of emotion and left amygdala involvement in conscious and cognitively controlled emotion processing. The present study investigated differential contributions of the left and right amygdala to cognitive and automatic mechanisms of mood induction. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we examined hemispheric amygdala responses during two mood induction paradigms: a purely visual method presenting face stimuli and an audiovisual method using faces and music. Amygdala responses in 30 subjects (16 females) showed differences in lateralization patterns depending on the processing mode. The left amygdala exhibited comparable activation levels for both methods. The right amygdala, in contrast, showed increased activity only for the audiovisual condition and this activity was increasing over time. The left amygdala showed augmented activity with higher intensity ratings of negative emotional valence. These results support a left-lateralized cognitive and intentional control of mood and a right-sided more automatic induction of emotion that relies less on explicit reflection processes. The modulation of the left amygdala responses by subjective experience may reflect individual differences in the cognitive effort used to induce the mood. Thus, the central role of the amygdala may not be restricted to the perception of emotion in others but also extend into processes involved in regulation of mood.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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