A functional MRI study of human amygdala responses to facial expressions of fear versus anger

Emotion. 2001 Mar;1(1):70-83. doi: 10.1037/1528-3542.1.1.70.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the human brain was used to compare changes in amygdala activity associated with viewing facial expressions of fear and anger. Pictures of human faces bearing expressions of fear or anger, as well as faces with neutral expressions, were presented to 8 healthy participants. The blood oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) fMRI signal within the dorsal amygdala was significantly greater to Fear versus Anger, in a direct contrast. Significant BOLD signal changes in the ventral amygdala were observed in contrasts of Fear versus Neutral expressions and, in a more spatially circumscribed region, to Anger versus Neutral expressions. Thus, activity in the amygdala is greater to fearful facial expressions when contrasted with either neutral or angry faces. Furthermore, directly contrasting fear with angry faces highlighted involvement of the dorsal amygdaloid region.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / anatomy & histology*
  • Amygdala / blood supply*
  • Anger*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Hemodynamics / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood


  • Oxygen