Hemodynamic and electrophysiological responses of the human amygdala during face imitation-a study using functional MRI and intracranial EEG

Cereb Cortex. 2024 Jan 14;34(1):bhad488. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhad488.


The involvement of the human amygdala in facial mimicry remains a matter of debate. We investigated neural activity in the human amygdala during a task in which an imitation task was separated in time from an observation task involving facial expressions. Neural activity in the amygdala was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging in 18 healthy individuals and using intracranial electroencephalogram in six medically refractory patients with epilepsy. The results of functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment showed that mimicry of negative and positive expressions activated the amygdala more than mimicry of non-emotional facial movements. In intracranial electroencephalogram experiment and time-frequency analysis, emotion-related activity of the amygdala during mimicry was observed as a significant neural oscillation in the high gamma band range. Furthermore, spectral event analysis of individual trial intracranial electroencephalogram data revealed that sustained oscillation of gamma band activity originated from an increased number and longer duration of neural events in the amygdala. Based on these findings, we conclude that during facial mimicry, visual information of expressions and feedback from facial movements are combined in the amygdalar nuclei. Considering the time difference of information approaching the amygdala, responses to facial movements are likely to modulate rather than initiate affective processing in human participants.

Keywords: activation; expression; gamma band; mimicry; time-frequency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / diagnostic imaging
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Electrocorticography*
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Facial Expression
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods