A hypothesis is proposed for five visual fear signaling pathways in humans, based on an analysis of anatomical connectivity from primate studies and human functional connectvity and tractography from brain imaging studies. Earlier work has identified possible subcortical and cortical fear pathways known as the "low road" and "high road," which arrive at the amygdala independently. In addition to a subcortical pathway, we propose four cortical signaling pathways in humans along the visual ventral stream. All four of these traverse through the LGN to the visual cortex (VC) and branching off at the inferior temporal area, with one projection directly to the amygdala; another traversing the orbitofrontal cortex; and two others passing through the parietal and then prefrontal cortex, one excitatory pathway via the ventral-medial area and one regulatory pathway via the ventral-lateral area. These pathways have progressively longer propagation latencies and may have progressively evolved with brain development to take advantage of higher-level processing. Using the anatomical path lengths and latency estimates for each of these five pathways, predictions are made for the relative processing times at selective ROIs and arrival at the amygdala, based on the presentation of a fear-relevant visual stimulus. Partial verification of the temporal dynamics of this hypothesis might be accomplished using experimental MEG analysis. Possible experimental protocols are suggested.
Keywords: amygdala; attention; emotion; fear; neural pathways; visual perception.