The role of the amygdala in emotion and social perception has been intensively investigated primarily through studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Recently, this topic has been examined using single-unit recordings in both humans and monkeys, with a focus on face processing. The findings provide novel insights, including several surprises: amygdala neurons have very long response latencies, show highly nonlinear responses to whole faces, and can be exquisitely selective for very specific parts of faces such as the eyes. In humans, the responses of amygdala neurons correlate with internal states evoked by faces, rather than with their objective features. Current and future studies extend the investigations to psychiatric illnesses such as autism, in which atypical face processing is a hallmark of social dysfunction.
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