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J Neurosci. 2017 Feb 1;37(5):1156-1161. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0114-16.2016. Epub 2016 Dec 23.

The Superior Temporal Sulcus Is Causally Connected to the Amygdala: A Combined TBS-fMRI Study.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of York, Heslington, York, YO105DD, United Kingdom, and david.pitcher@york.ac.uk.
2
Section on Neurocircuitry, Laboratory of Brain and Cognition, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.

Abstract

Nonhuman primate neuroanatomical studies have identified a cortical pathway from the superior temporal sulcus (STS) projecting into dorsal subregions of the amygdala, but whether this same pathway exists in humans is unknown. Here, we addressed this question by combining theta burst transcranial magnetic stimulation (TBS) with fMRI to test the prediction that the STS and amygdala are functionally connected during face perception. Human participants (N = 17) were scanned, over two sessions, while viewing 3 s video clips of moving faces, bodies, and objects. During these sessions, TBS was delivered over the face-selective right posterior STS (rpSTS) or over the vertex control site. A region-of-interest analysis revealed results consistent with our hypothesis. Namely, TBS delivered over the rpSTS reduced the neural response to faces (but not to bodies or objects) in the rpSTS, right anterior STS (raSTS), and right amygdala, compared with TBS delivered over the vertex. By contrast, TBS delivered over the rpSTS did not significantly reduce the neural response to faces in the right fusiform face area or right occipital face area. This pattern of results is consistent with the existence of a cortico-amygdala pathway in humans for processing face information projecting from the rpSTS, via the raSTS, into the amygdala. This conclusion is consistent with nonhuman primate neuroanatomy and with existing face perception models.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT:

Neuroimaging studies have identified multiple face-selective regions in the brain, but the functional connections between these regions are unknown. In the present study, participants were scanned with fMRI while viewing movie clips of faces, bodies, and objects before and after transient disruption of the face-selective right posterior superior temporal sulcus (rpSTS). Results showed that TBS disruption reduced the neural response to faces, but not to bodies or objects, in the rpSTS, right anterior STS (raSTS), and right amygdala. These results are consistent with the existence of a cortico-amygdala pathway in humans for processing face information projecting from the rpSTS, via the raSTS, into the amygdala. This conclusion is consistent with nonhuman primate neuroanatomy and with existing face perception models.

KEYWORDS:

STS; TMS; amygdala; face perception; face processing

PMID:
28011742
PMCID:
PMC5296794
DOI:
10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0114-16.2016
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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