Local glutamate in cingulate cortex subregions differentially correlates with affective network activations during face perception

Eur J Neurosci. 2020 Aug;52(3):3047-3060. doi: 10.1111/ejn.14733. Epub 2020 Apr 16.


The cingulate cortex is involved in emotion recognition/perception and regulation. Rostral and caudal subregions belong to different brain networks with distinct roles in affective perception. Despite recent accounts of the relevance of cingulate cortex glutamate (Glu) on blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) responses, the specificity of the subregional Glu levels during emotional tasks remains unclear. Seventy-two healthy participants (age = 27.33 ± 6.67, 32 women) performed an affective face-matching task and underwent magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) at 7 Tesla. Correlations between the BOLD response during emotion perception and Glu concentration in the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (pgACC) and anterior midcingulate cortex (aMCC) were compared on a whole-brain level. Post hoc specificity of the association with an affect was assessed. Lower Glu in the pgACC correlated with stronger activation differences between negative and positive faces in the left inferior and superior frontal gyrus (L IFG and L SFG). In contrast, lower Glu in the aMCC correlated with BOLD contrasts in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). Furthermore, negative face detection was associated with prolonged response time (RT). Our results demonstrate a subregion-specific involvement of cingulate cortex Glu in interindividual differences during viewing of affective facial expressions. Glu levels in the pgACC were correlated with frontal area brain activations, whereas Glu in the salience network component aMCC modulated responses in the PCC-precuneus. We show that region-specific metabolite mapping enables specific activation of different BOLD signals in the brain underlying emotional perception.

Keywords: affect face matching; cingulate cortex; glutamate; regional specificity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain
  • Brain Mapping
  • Facial Recognition*
  • Female
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Gyrus Cinguli*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Young Adult


  • Glutamic Acid