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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2013 Feb;8(2):181-9. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsr085. Epub 2011 Dec 8.

Functional connectivity between amygdala and facial regions involved in recognition of facial threat.

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  • 1Department of Cerebral Research, Division of Cerebral Integration, National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Okazaki, Japan.


The recognition of threatening faces is important for making social judgments. For example, threatening facial features of defendants could affect the decisions of jurors during a trial. Previous neuroimaging studies using faces of members of the general public have identified a pivotal role of the amygdala in perceiving threat. This functional magnetic resonance imaging study used face photographs of male prisoners who had been convicted of first-degree murder (MUR) as threatening facial stimuli. We compared the subjective ratings of MUR faces with those of control (CON) faces and examined how they were related to brain activation, particularly, the modulation of the functional connectivity between the amygdala and other brain regions. The MUR faces were perceived to be more threatening than the CON faces. The bilateral amygdala was shown to respond to both MUR and CON faces, but subtraction analysis revealed no significant difference between the two. Functional connectivity analysis indicated that the extent of connectivity between the left amygdala and the face-related regions (i.e. the superior temporal sulcus, inferior temporal gyrus and fusiform gyrus) was correlated with the subjective threat rating for the faces. We have demonstrated that the functional connectivity is modulated by vigilance for threatening facial features.

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