Amygdala sensitivity to race is not present in childhood but emerges over adolescence

J Cogn Neurosci. 2013 Feb;25(2):234-44. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00311. Epub 2012 Oct 15.


Neuroimaging research in adults has consistently found that differential perception of race is associated with increased amygdala activity. We hypothesized that such neural biases unlikely reflect innate processes but instead emerge over development. In the current study, we used fMRI to examine the neurodevelopmental trajectory of the amygdala in response to race across childhood and adolescence ranging from 4 to 16 years. Thirty-two youths viewed African American and European American faces during a functional brain scan. Results suggest that differential amygdala response to African American faces does not emerge until adolescence, reflecting the increasing salience of race across development. In addition, greater peer diversity was associated with attenuated amygdala response to African American faces, suggesting that intergroup racial contact may reduce the salience of race.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / ethnology
  • Adolescent Behavior / physiology
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology
  • Adolescent Development / physiology*
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • Amygdala / growth & development*
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / ethnology
  • Child Behavior / physiology
  • Child Behavior / psychology
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emotions / physiology
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / psychology*
  • Face
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Social Behavior