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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

December 2013, Vol. 25, No. 12, Pages 2086-2106
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00469)
© 2013 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Robust Selectivity for Faces in the Human Amygdala in the Absence of Expressions
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There is a well-established posterior network of cortical regions that plays a central role in face processing and that has been investigated extensively. In contrast, although responsive to faces, the amygdala is not considered a core face-selective region, and its face selectivity has never been a topic of systematic research in human neuroimaging studies. Here, we conducted a large-scale group analysis of fMRI data from 215 participants. We replicated the posterior network observed in prior studies but found equally robust and reliable responses to faces in the amygdala. These responses were detectable in most individual participants, but they were also highly sensitive to the initial statistical threshold and habituated more rapidly than the responses in posterior face-selective regions. A multivariate analysis showed that the pattern of responses to faces across voxels in the amygdala had high reliability over time. Finally, functional connectivity analyses showed stronger coupling between the amygdala and posterior face-selective regions during the perception of faces than during the perception of control visual categories. These findings suggest that the amygdala should be considered a core face-selective region.