High and low spatial frequency information in visual images is processed by distinct neural channels. Using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in humans, we show dissociable roles of such visual channels for processing faces and emotional fearful expressions. Neural responses in fusiform cortex, and effects of repeating the same face identity upon fusiform activity, were greater with intact or high-spatial-frequency face stimuli than with low-frequency faces, regardless of emotional expression. In contrast, amygdala responses to fearful expressions were greater for intact or low-frequency faces than for high-frequency faces. An activation of pulvinar and superior colliculus by fearful expressions occurred specifically with low-frequency faces, suggesting that these subcortical pathways may provide coarse fear-related inputs to the amygdala.