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Hum Brain Mapp. 2014 Dec;35(12):5974-83. doi: 10.1002/hbm.22598. Epub 2014 Jul 23.

A direct amygdala-motor pathway for emotional displays to influence action: A diffusion tensor imaging study.

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Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Inserm U960, Institute for Cognitive Studies, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France; Centre de NeuroImagerie de Recherche - CENIR, Centre de Recherche de l'Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière, Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6, UMR-S975, Inserm U975, CNRS UMR7225, Groupe Hospitalier Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris, France.


An important evolutionary function of emotions is to prime individuals for action. Although functional neuroimaging has provided evidence for such a relationship, little is known about the anatomical substrates allowing the limbic system to influence cortical motor-related areas. Using diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging and probabilistic tractography on a cohort of 40 participants, we provide evidence of a structural connection between the amygdala and motor-related areas (lateral and medial precentral, motor cingulate and primary motor cortices, and postcentral gyrus) in humans. We then compare this connection with the connections of the amygdala with emotion-related brain areas (superior temporal sulcus, fusiform gyrus, orbitofrontal cortex, and lateral inferior frontal gyrus) and determine which amygdala nuclei are at the origin of these projections. Beyond the well-known subcortical influences over automatic and stereotypical emotional behaviors, a direct amygdala-motor pathway might provide a mechanism by which the amygdala can influence more complex motor behaviors.


amygdala; diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging; motor system; social responding

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