Response and habituation of the human amygdala during visual processing of facial expression.
We measured amygdala activity in human volunteers during rapid visual presentations of fearful, happy, and neutral faces using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The first experiment involved a fixed order of conditions both within and across runs, while the second one used a fully counterbalanced order in addition to a low level baseline of simple visual stimuli. In both experiments, the amygdala was preferentially activated in response to fearful versus neutral faces. In the counterbalanced experiment, the amygdala also responded preferentially to happy versus neutral faces, suggesting a possible generalized response to emotionally valenced stimuli. Rapid habituation effects were prominent in both experiments. Thus, the human amygdala responds preferentially to emotionally valenced faces and rapidly habituates to them.