In Study of Individual Neuron Activity, Key Brain Region Responds to Subjective Perception

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LOS ANGELES (Jun. 30, 2014) — When evaluating another person’s emotions – happy, sad, angry, afraid – humans take cues from facial expressions. Neurons in a part of the brain called the amygdala “fire” in response to the visual stimulation as information is processed by the retina, the amygdala and a network of interconnected brain structures. Some of these regions respond just to the actual features of the face, whereas others respond to how things appear to the viewer, but it is unknown where in the brain this difference arises. Although the amygdala’s importance in face recognition and emotional assessment is well-known, little is understood about how these processes work, but research led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai and the California Institute of Technology has found that at least some of the brain cells that specialize in recognizing emotions may represent judgments based on the viewer’s preconceptions rather than the true emotion being expressed.

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