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Seeing the world through non rose-colored glasses: anxiety and the amygdala response to blended expressions

Bishop, S. J., Aguirre, G. K., Nunez-Elizalde, A. O. and Toker, D. (2015) Seeing the world through non rose-colored glasses: anxiety and the amygdala response to blended expressions. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9. 152. ISSN 1662-5161

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To link to this item DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00152


Anxious individuals have a greater tendency to categorize faces with ambiguous emotional expressions as fearful (Richards et al., 2002). These behavioral findings might reflect anxiety-related biases in stimulus representation within the human amygdala. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) together with a continuous adaptation design to investigate the representation of faces from three expression continua (surprise-fear, sadness-fear, and surprise-sadness) within the amygdala and other brain regions implicated in face processing. Fifty-four healthy adult participants completed a face expression categorization task. Nineteen of these participants also viewed the same expressions presented using type 1 index 1 sequences while fMRI data were acquired. Behavioral analyses revealed an anxiety-related categorization bias in the surprise-fear continuum alone. Here, elevated anxiety was associated with a more rapid transition from surprise to fear responses as a function of percentage fear in the face presented, leading to increased fear categorizations for faces with a mid-way blend of surprise and fear. fMRI analyses revealed that high trait anxious participants also showed greater representational similarity, as indexed by greater adaptation of the Blood Oxygenation Level Dependent (BOLD) signal, between 50/50 surprise/fear expression blends and faces from the fear end of the surprise-fear continuum in both the right amygdala and right fusiform face area (FFA). No equivalent biases were observed for the other expression continua. These findings suggest that anxiety-related biases in the processing of expressions intermediate between surprise and fear may be linked to differential representation of these stimuli in the amygdala and FFA. The absence of anxiety-related biases for the sad-fear continuum might reflect intermediate expressions from the surprise-fear continuum being most ambiguous in threat-relevance.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:86902


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