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Neurosci Lett. 2012 Apr 18;514(2):210-3. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2012.03.003. Epub 2012 Mar 8.

Shifting the focus of attention modulates amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex reactivity to emotional faces.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2700, USA.


Functional neuroimaging studies have largely established the prominence of amygdala during emotion processing and prefrontal areas such as anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) during attentional modulation. In general, emotion processing paradigms known to probe amygdala have not been adapted to recruit prefrontal areas. In this study we used a well-known perceptual face matching paradigm, designed to elicit amygdala response, and asked volunteers to shift their focus in order to recruit regions responsible for attentional control. Stimuli comprised a trio of geometric shapes (circles, rectangles, triangles) presented alongside a trio of emotional faces (angry, fear, or happy) within the same field of view, and subjects were instructed to Match Faces or Match Shapes, as a means of attending to and away from the emotional content, respectively. We observed greater amygdala reactivity to Match Faces (>Match Shapes), and greater rostral ACC response to Match Shapes (>Match Faces). Results indicate that simply and volitionally directing attention toward or away from emotional content correspondingly modulates amygdala and ACC activity.

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