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Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience


We examined whether amygdala responses to rapidly presented fear expressions are preferentially tuned to averted vs direct gaze fear and conversely whether responses to more sustained presentations are preferentially tuned to direct vs averted gaze fear. We conducted three functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies to test these predictions including: Study 1: a block design employing sustained presentations (1 s) of averted vs direct gaze fear expressions taken from the Pictures of Facial Affect; Study 2: a block design employing rapid presentations (300 ms) of these same stimuli and Study 3: a direct replication of these studies in the context of a single experiment using stimuli selected from the NimStim Emotional Face Stimuli. Together, these studies provide evidence consistent with an early, reflexive amygdala response tuned to clear threat and a later reflective response tuned to ambiguous threat.