Amygdala activation during recognition of emotions in a foreign ethnic group is associated with duration of stay.

Medical University of Vienna, and University of Vienna, Vienna 1090, Austria.
Social neuroscience (Impact Factor: 3.17). 06/2009; 4(4):294-307. DOI: 10.1080/17470910802571633
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Cultural differences in emotion recognition performance have frequently been reported, whereby duration of stay in a foreign culture seems to be a crucial factor. Furthermore, cultural aspects influence the neural correlates of face and emotion processing thereby also affecting the response of the amygdala. Here, the exposure to a foreign culture and its influence on the cerebral correlates of facial emotion recognition were examined in 24 Asian and 24 age-matched European males. Subjects performed an explicit emotion recognition task and were imaged with a 3 T MR-scanner. Results demonstrate a significant cultural influence on the specific recognition of disgust and anger, with higher accuracy among the Europeans, while the functional data indicate generally elevated amygdala activation in Asians compared to Europeans. Moreover, a significant inverse correlation between duration of stay and amygdala response emerged, with stronger activation in those subjects with shorter duration of stay in Europe. The observed amygdala hyperactivation in Asians may reflect novelty aspects but might also be associated with greater effort and motivation in immigrants, thus it possibly reflects one neural correlate of the "alien-effect". We conclude that exposure to a foreign culture and duration of stay affect the behavioral and neural response to facial expressions of emotions.

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