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Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience


In this study, we compared the effects of using neutral face masks vs non-face pattern masks on amygdala activity to masked fearful faces. Twenty-seven subjects viewed 18 s blocks of either fearful or happy faces masked with either neutral faces or patterns, while their brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Results replicated increased amygdala activation to face-masked fearful vs happy faces. In the pattern mask condition, the amygdala discriminated between masked fearful and happy faces, but this effect manifested as a decrease in activation to fearful faces compared to happy faces. This interactive effect between facial expression and mask stimulus shows that amygdala responses to masked fearful faces are influenced by the fearful stimuli per se as well as their interaction with the mask stimulus.