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Neuroimage. 2012 Jul 16;61(4):1355-63. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.03.051. Epub 2012 Mar 28.

Cortical functional connectivity decodes subconscious, task-irrelevant threat-related emotion processing.

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fMRI Research Center, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.

Erratum in

  • Neuroimage. 2013 May 15;72:324.


It is currently unclear to what extent cortical structures are required for and engaged during subconscious processing of biologically salient affective stimuli (i.e. the 'low-road' vs. 'many-roads' hypotheses). Here we show that cortical-cortical and cortical-subcortical functional connectivity (FC) contain substantially more information, relative to subcortical-subcortical FC (i.e. 'subcortical alarm' and other limbic regions), that predicts subliminal fearful face processing within individuals using training data from separate subjects. A plot of classification accuracy vs. number of selected whole-brain FC features revealed 92% accuracy when learning was based on the top 8 features from each training set. The most informative FC was between right amygdala and precuneus, which increased during subliminal fear conditions, while left and right amygdala FC decreased, suggesting a bilateral decoupling of this key limbic region during processing of subliminal fear-related stimuli. Other informative FC included angular gyrus, middle temporal gyrus and cerebellum. These findings identify FC that decodes subliminally perceived, task-irrelevant affective stimuli, and suggest that cortical structures are actively engaged by and appear to be essential for subliminal fear processing.

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