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Neuropsychologia. 2014 Apr;56:47-52. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2014.01.005. Epub 2014 Jan 18.

Dynamic stimuli demonstrate a categorical representation of facial expression in the amygdala.

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Department of Psychology and York Neuroimaging Centre, University of York, York YO10 5DD, United Kingdom.
Department of Psychology and York Neuroimaging Centre, University of York, York YO10 5DD, United Kingdom. Electronic address:


Face-selective regions in the amygdala and posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) are strongly implicated in the processing of transient facial signals, such as expression. Here, we measured neural responses in participants while they viewed dynamic changes in facial expression. Our aim was to explore how facial expression is represented in different face-selective regions. Short movies were generated by morphing between faces posing a neutral expression and a prototypical expression of a basic emotion (either anger, disgust, fear, happiness or sadness). These dynamic stimuli were presented in block design in the following four stimulus conditions: (1) same-expression change, same-identity, (2) same-expression change, different-identity, (3) different-expression change, same-identity, and (4) different-expression change, different-identity. So, within a same-expression change condition the movies would show the same change in expression whereas in the different-expression change conditions each movie would have a different change in expression. Facial identity remained constant during each movie but in the different identity conditions the facial identity varied between each movie in a block. The amygdala, but not the posterior STS, demonstrated a greater response to blocks in which each movie morphed from neutral to a different emotion category compared to blocks in which each movie morphed to the same emotion category. Neural adaptation in the amygdala was not affected by changes in facial identity. These results are consistent with a role of the amygdala in category-based representation of facial expressions of emotion.


Emotion; Expression; Face; fMRI

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