Emotional Automaticity Is a Matter of Timing

Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.
The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 6.34). 04/2010; 30(17):5825-9. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.BC-5668-09.2010
Source: PubMed


There has been a long controversy concerning whether the amygdala's response to emotional stimuli is automatic or dependent on attentional load. Using magnoencephalography and an advanced beamformer source localization technique, we found that amygdala automaticity was a function of time: while early amygdala responding to emotional stimuli (40-140 ms) was unaffected by attentional load, later amygdala response (280-410 ms), subsequent to frontoparietal cortex activity, was modulated by attentional load.

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    • "A recent study found that neurons in the macaque pulvinar can respond selectively to snakes in 55 ms (Van Le et al., 2013), which is likely too short for a cortical route. It has also been found that the amygdala can be activated with low latencies from a fear-relevant stimulus in about 40–120 ms (Luo et al., 2010), perhaps along the low road. While dual pathways were initially observed in rats, there is functional evidence this applies to primates and specifically humans (Rudrauf et al., 2008; Garrido et al., 2012; Garvert et al., 2014) as well. "
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    • "). Because both early nonconscious and later conscious responses take place within the time window of a single volume acquisition in fMRI studies, the different functional values of neural activity in the same structure may be integrated or overridden (Brosch & Wieser, 2011; Costa et al., 2014; Luo et al., 2010). This limitation of fMRI has been partially circumvented by the use of methods with a better temporal resolution, such as electroencephalography (EEG) or magnetoencephalography (MEG), which have a temporal resolution on the order of milliseconds , but, on the other hand, have a poor spatial resolution and have been questioned when used to detect neural activity in subcortical structures (Andino, Menendez, Khateb, Landis, & Pegna, 2009; Cecere et al., 2014; de Gelder et al., 2002; Rossion et al., 2000). "
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    • "It is unlikely that this result was due to floor effects, as there was a substantial degree of variation in correctly identified RMET stimuli across participants. However, the absence of group differences might be explained by other artifacts in our experimental set-up, such as the possibility that our stimulus duration was too long in order to tap into early stages of information processing (Luo et al., 2010). Alternatively, psychopaths might have kept the image of the eyes in visual shortterm memory, still enabling the engagement in slower, cognitive strategies for identifying mental states. "
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