Enya M. Weidner, Stephan Moratti, Sebastian Schindler, Philip Grewe, Christian G. Bien, Johanna Kissler

Amygdala and cortical gamma‐band responses to emotional faces are modulated by attention to valence

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Neurology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • General Neuroscience

AbstractThe amygdala might support an attentional bias for emotional faces. However, whether and how selective attention toward a specific valence modulates this bias is not fully understood. Likewise, it is unclear whether amygdala and cortical signals respond to emotion and attention in a similar way. We recorded gamma‐band activity (GBA, > 30 Hz) intracranially in the amygdalae of 11 patients with epilepsy and collected scalp recordings from 19 healthy participants. We presented angry, neutral, and happy faces randomly, and we denoted one valence as the target. Participants detected happy targets most quickly and accurately. In the amygdala, during attention to negative faces, low gamma‐band activity (LGBA, < 90 Hz) increased for angry compared with happy faces from 160 ms. From 220 ms onward, amygdala high gamma‐band activity (HGBA, > 90 Hz) was higher for angry and neutral faces than for happy ones. Monitoring neutral faces increased amygdala HGBA for emotions compared with neutral faces from 40 ms. Expressions were not differentiated in GBA while monitoring positive faces. On the scalp, only threat monitoring resulted in expression differentiation. Here, posterior LGBA was increased selectively for angry targets from 60 ms. The data show that GBA differentiation of emotional expressions is modulated by attention to valence: Top‐down‐controlled threat vigilance coordinates widespread GBA in favor of angry faces. Stimulus‐driven emotion differentiation in amygdala GBA occurs during a neutral attentional focus. These findings align with a multi‐pathway model of emotion processing and specify the role of GBA in this process.

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