The face of negative affect: trial-by-trial corrugator responses to negative pictures are positively associated with amygdala and negatively associated with ventromedial prefrontal cortex activity

J Cogn Neurosci. 2014 Sep;26(9):2102-10. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00622. Epub 2014 Mar 26.


The ability to simultaneously acquire objective physiological measures of emotion concurrent with fMRI holds the promise to enhance our understanding of the biological bases of affect and thus improve our knowledge of the neural circuitry underlying psychiatric disorders. However, the vast majority of neuroimaging studies to date examining emotion have not anchored the examination of emotion-responding circuitry to objective measures of emotional processing. To that end, we acquired EMG activity of a valence-sensitive facial muscle involved in the frowning response (corrugator muscle) concurrent with fMRI while twenty-six human participants viewed negative and neutral images. Trial-by-trial increases in corrugator EMG activity to negative pictures were associated with greater amygdala activity and a concurrent decrease in ventromedial PFC activity. Thus, this study highlights the reciprocal relation between amygdalar and ventromedial PFC in the encoding of emotional valence as reflected by facial expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / blood supply
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Echo-Planar Imaging
  • Electroencephalography
  • Electromyography
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology*
  • Face*
  • Facial Muscles / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Prefrontal Cortex / blood supply
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen