Article

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: 2.66). 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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    • "An intriguing neural hypothesis is that these attentional patterns are in part guided by the amygdala, which is considered to be crucially involved in selective information processing of biologically significant stimuli (Pessoa, 2010). Recent evidence from cultural neuroscience, demonstrating consistent cultural differences in amygdala activation patterns during face perception (Moriguchi et al., 2005; Chiao et al., 2008; Adams et al., 2010; Derntl et al., 2012, 2009), underlines this notion. "
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    ABSTRACT: Despite consistently documented cultural differences in the perception of facial expressions of emotion, the role of culture in shaping cognitive mechanisms that are central to emotion perception has received relatively little attention in past research. We review recent developments in cross-cultural psychology that provide particular insights into the modulatory role of culture on cognitive mechanisms involved in interpretations of facial expressions of emotion through two distinct routes: display rules and cognitive styles. Investigations of emotion intensity perception have demonstrated that facial expressions with varying levels of intensity of positive affect are perceived and categorized differently across cultures. Specifically, recent findings indicating significant levels of differentiation between intensity levels of facial expressions among American participants, as well as deviations from clear categorization of high and low intensity expressions among Japanese and Russian participants, suggest that display rules shape mental representations of emotions, such as intensity levels of emotion prototypes. Furthermore, a series of recent studies using eye tracking as a proxy for overt attention during face perception have identified culture-specific cognitive styles, such as the propensity to attend to very specific features of the face. Together, these results suggest a cascade of cultural influences on cognitive mechanisms involved in interpretations of facial expressions of emotion, whereby cultures impart specific behavioral practices that shape the way individuals process information from the environment. These cultural influences lead to differences in cognitive styles due to culture-specific attentional biases and emotion prototypes, which partially account for the gradient of cultural agreements and disagreements obtained in past investigations of emotion perception.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2013 · Frontiers in Psychology
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    • "An intriguing neural hypothesis is that these attentional patterns are in part guided by the amygdala, which is considered to be crucially involved in selective information processing of biologically significant stimuli (Pessoa, 2010). Recent evidence from cultural neuroscience, demonstrating consistent cultural differences in amygdala activation patterns during face perception (Moriguchi et al., 2005; Chiao et al., 2008; Adams et al., 2010; Derntl et al., 2012, 2009), underlines this notion. "

    Full-text · Dataset · Mar 2013
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    • "This study investigated the behavioral performance and neural activation during an explicit emotion recognition task to examine the impact of exposure to emotional expressions of a different, previously unfamiliar ethnic group in Asian female and male immigrants. In concordance with previous results from our lab on male immigrants [18] and our hypothesis, bilateral amygdala activation in both samples was observed, confirming the role of the amygdala as a 'relevance detector' [37]. The amygdala seems to be fundamental in emotion processing as a part of the underlying neural network although gender, socialization and cultural background seem to exert a certain impact on its activation. "
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    ABSTRACT: Mounting evidence indicates that humans have significant difficulties in understanding emotional expressions from individuals of different ethnic backgrounds, leading to reduced recognition accuracy and stronger amygdala activation. However, the impact of gender on the behavioral and neural reactions during the initial phase of cultural assimilation has not been addressed. Therefore, we investigated 24 Asians students (12 females) and 24 age-matched European students (12 females) during an explicit emotion recognition task, using Caucasian facial expressions only, on a high-field MRI scanner. Analysis of functional data revealed bilateral amygdala activation to emotional expressions in Asian and European subjects. However, in the Asian sample, a stronger response of the amygdala emerged and was paralleled by reduced recognition accuracy, particularly for angry male faces. Moreover, no significant gender difference emerged. We also observed a significant inverse correlation between duration of stay and amygdala activation. In this study we investigated the "alien-effect" as an initial problem during cultural assimilation and examined this effect on a behavioral and neural level. This study has revealed bilateral amygdala activation to emotional expressions in Asian and European females and males. In the Asian sample, a stronger response of the amygdala bilaterally was observed and this was paralleled by reduced performance, especially for anger and disgust depicted by male expressions. However, no gender difference occurred. Taken together, while gender exerts only a subtle effect, culture and duration of stay as well as gender of poser are shown to be relevant factors for emotion processing, influencing not only behavioral but also neural responses in female and male immigrants.
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