Neural substrates of facial emotion processing using fMRI

Marilyn L. Kesler-West, Anders H. Andersen, Charles D. Smith, Malcolm J. Avison, C. Ervin Davis, Richard J. Kryscio, Lee X. Blonder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

350 Scopus citations


We identified human brain regions involved in the perception of sad, frightened, happy, angry, and neutral facial expressions using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Twenty-one healthy right-handed adult volunteers (11 men, 10 women; aged 18-45; mean age 21.6 years) participated in four separate runs, one for each of the four emotions. Participants viewed blocks of emotionally expressive faces alternating with blocks of neutral faces and scrambled images. In comparison with scrambled images, neutral faces activated the fusiform gyri, the right lateral occipital gyrus, the right superior temporal sulcus, the inferior frontal gyri, and the amygdala/entorhinal cortex. In comparisons of emotional and neutral faces, we found that (1) emotional faces elicit increased activation in a subset of cortical regions involved in neutral face processing and in areas not activated by neutral faces; (2) differences in activation as a function of emotion category were most evident in the frontal lobes; (3) men showed a differential neural response depending upon the emotion expressed but women did not.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-226
Number of pages14
JournalCognitive Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
These studies were supported by NSF Grant IBN-9604231. We thank Robin Avison, Sherry C. Williams, Aileen Wiglesworth, Xia Wang, Derek Mace, and Marta Mendiondo for their technical assistance.


  • Emotional processing
  • Facial expression
  • Functional imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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