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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2012 Feb;7(2):213-21. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsq101. Epub 2010 Dec 22.

Interaction between trait anxiety and trait anger predict amygdala reactivity to angry facial expressions in men but not women.

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Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.


The amygdala is critically involved in mediating physiological and behavioral responses to threat. In particular, neuroimaging research indicates that the amygdala is highly responsive to facial signals of threat such as fearful and angry expressions. However, individuals differ substantially in both their relative sensitivity to threat and the magnitude of amygdala reactivity to facial signals of threat. Here, we report the novel finding that individual differences in trait anger are positively correlated with bilateral dorsal amygdala reactivity to angry facial expressions, but only among men with elevated trait anxiety scores. These findings add to the growing body of evidence indicating that variability in personality traits contribute to individual differences in threat-related amygdala reactivity and further suggest that heightened amygdala reactivity to angry faces may be uniquely involved in the expression of reactive aggression in men.

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