This study investigated the cortical response to hearing threat-related and neutral words using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 16 coronal planes. Right-handed volunteers listened to (i) neutral words alternating with no words as the control condition, and (ii) neutral words alternating with threat-related words as the experimental condition. Threat-related words compared to neutral words activated left posterior cingulate gyrus in eight of 10 subjects with activation most prominent in the retrosplenial region. Patterns of activation produced by neutral words compared to no words included bilateral temporal and frontal regions but not posterior cingulate. The retrosplenial cingulate region has recently been implicated in episodic memory processes. We discuss the possible role of the posterior cingulate cortex in processes involving emotion and memory and in anxiety disorders.
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