Dynamic Changes in Amygdala Psychophysiological Connectivity Reveal Distinct Neural Networks for Facial Expressions of Basic Emotions

Sci Rep. 2017 Mar 27:7:45260. doi: 10.1038/srep45260.


The quest to characterize the neural signature distinctive of different basic emotions has recently come under renewed scrutiny. Here we investigated whether facial expressions of different basic emotions modulate the functional connectivity of the amygdala with the rest of the brain. To this end, we presented seventeen healthy participants (8 females) with facial expressions of anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and emotional neutrality and analyzed amygdala's psychophysiological interaction (PPI). In fact, PPI can reveal how inter-regional amygdala communications change dynamically depending on perception of various emotional expressions to recruit different brain networks, compared to the functional interactions it entertains during perception of neutral expressions. We found that for each emotion the amygdala recruited a distinctive and spatially distributed set of structures to interact with. These changes in amygdala connectional patters characterize the dynamic signature prototypical of individual emotion processing, and seemingly represent a neural mechanism that serves to implement the distinctive influence that each emotion exerts on perceptual, cognitive, and motor responses. Besides these differences, all emotions enhanced amygdala functional integration with premotor cortices compared to neutral faces. The present findings thus concur to reconceptualise the structure-function relation between brain-emotion from the traditional one-to-one mapping toward a network-based and dynamic perspective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Facial Expression
  • Facial Recognition / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Young Adult