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A specific neural substrate for perceiving facial expressions of disgust.

Recognition of facial expressions is critical to our appreciation of the social and physical environment, with separate emotions having distinct facial expressions. Perception of fearful facial expressions has been extensively studied, appearing to depend upon the amygdala. Disgust-literally 'bad taste'-is another important emotion, with a distinct evolutionary history, and is conveyed by a characteristic facial expression. We have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the neural substrate for perceiving disgust expressions. Normal volunteers were presented with faces showing mild or strong disgust or fear. Cerebral activation in response to these stimuli was contrasted with that for neutral faces. Results for fear generally confirmed previous positron emission tomography findings of amygdala involvement. Both strong and mild expressions of disgust activated anterior insular cortex but not the amygdala; strong disgust also activated structures linked to a limbic cortico-striatal-thalamic circuit. The anterior insula is known to be involved in responses to offensive tastes. The neural response to facial expressions of disgust in others is thus closely related to appraisal of distasteful stimuli.

Pubmed ID: 9333238