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The role of the amygdala in the perception of positive emotions: an “intensity detector”

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      Abstract

      The specific role of the amygdala remains controversial even though the development of functional imaging techniques has established its implication in the emotional process. The aim of this study was to highlight the sensitivity of the amygdala to emotional intensity (arousal). We conducted an analysis of the modulation of amygdala activation according to variation in emotional intensity via an fMRI event-related protocol. Monitoring of electrodermal activity, a marker of psychophysiological emotional perception and a reflection of the activation of the autonomic nervous system, was carried out concurrently. Eighteen subjects (10 men; aged from 22 to 29 years) looked at emotionally positive photographs. We demonstrated that the left and right amygdalae were sensitive to changes in emotional intensity, activating more in response to stimuli with higher intensity. Furthermore, electrodermal responses were more frequent for the most intense stimuli, demonstrating the concomitant activation of the autonomic nervous system. These results highlight the sensitivity of the amygdala to the intensity of positively valenced visual stimuli, and in conjunction with results in the literature on negative emotions, reinforce the role of the amygdala in the perception of intensity.

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      Most cited references 59

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      Measuring emotion: the Self-Assessment Manikin and the Semantic Differential.

      The Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM) is a non-verbal pictorial assessment technique that directly measures the pleasure, arousal, and dominance associated with a person's affective reaction to a wide variety of stimuli. In this experiment, we compare reports of affective experience obtained using SAM, which requires only three simple judgments, to the Semantic Differential scale devised by Mehrabian and Russell (An approach to environmental psychology, 1974) which requires 18 different ratings. Subjective reports were measured to a series of pictures that varied in both affective valence and intensity. Correlations across the two rating methods were high both for reports of experienced pleasure and felt arousal. Differences obtained in the dominance dimension of the two instruments suggest that SAM may better track the personal response to an affective stimulus. SAM is an inexpensive, easy method for quickly assessing reports of affective response in many contexts.
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        Autonomic nervous system activity in emotion: A review

        Autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity is viewed as a major component of the emotion response in many recent theories of emotion. Positions on the degree of specificity of ANS activation in emotion, however, greatly diverge, ranging from undifferentiated arousal, over acknowledgment of strong response idiosyncrasies, to highly specific predictions of autonomic response patterns for certain emotions. A review of 134 publications that report experimental investigations of emotional effects on peripheral physiological responding in healthy individuals suggests considerable ANS response specificity in emotion when considering subtypes of distinct emotions. The importance of sound terminology of investigated affective states as well as of choice of physiological measures in assessing ANS reactivity is discussed. Copyright © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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          Emotion processing and the amygdala: from a 'low road' to 'many roads' of evaluating biological significance.

          A subcortical pathway through the superior colliculus and pulvinar to the amygdala is commonly assumed to mediate the non-conscious processing of affective visual stimuli. We review anatomical and physiological data that argue against the notion that such a pathway plays a prominent part in processing affective visual stimuli in humans. Instead, we propose that the primary role of the amygdala in visual processing, like that of the pulvinar, is to coordinate the function of cortical networks during evaluation of the biological significance of affective visual stimuli. Under this revised framework, the cortex has a more important role in emotion processing than is traditionally assumed.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            1Department of Neurology, Besancon University Hospital Besancon, France
            2Department of Research in Functional Imaging, CIC 808, Besancon University Hospital Besancon, France
            3Laboratory of Integrative and Clinical Neuroscience, EA 481, SFR FED 4234 UFC-CHRU-EFS Besancon, France
            Author notes

            Edited by: Lars Schwabe, University of Hamburg, Germany

            Reviewed by: Phillip R. Zoladz, Ohio Northern University, USA; Mathias Weymar, University of Greifswald, Germany

            *Correspondence: Louise Bonnet, Stroke Unit, Department of Neurology, Besancon University Hospital, 3, bd Alexandre Fleming, 25030 Besancon, France louise.bonnet@ 123456univ-fcomte.fr
            Contributors
            Journal
            Front Behav Neurosci
            Front Behav Neurosci
            Front. Behav. Neurosci.
            Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
            Frontiers Media S.A.
            1662-5153
            07 July 2015
            2015
            : 9
            4493392
            10.3389/fnbeh.2015.00178
            Copyright © 2015 Bonnet, Comte, Tatu, Millot, Moulin and Medeiros de Bustos.

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

            Counts
            Figures: 3, Tables: 3, Equations: 0, References: 61, Pages: 12, Words: 8654
            Funding
            Funded by: Besancon University Hospital
            Categories
            Neuroscience
            Original Research

            Neurosciences

            emotional intensity, amygdala, electrodermal response, fmri, iaps, emotion

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