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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

December 2008, Vol. 20, No. 12, Pages 2167-2174
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.2008.20151)
© 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cultural Specificity in Amygdala Response to Fear Faces
Article PDF (172.44 KB)

The human amygdala robustly activates to fear faces. Heightened response to fear faces is thought to reflect the amygdala's adaptive function as an early warning mechanism. Although culture shapes several facets of emotional and social experience, including how fear is perceived and expressed to others, very little is known about how culture influences neural responses to fear stimuli. Here we show that the bilateral amygdala response to fear faces is modulated by culture. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure amygdala response to fear and nonfear faces in two distinct cultures. Native Japanese in Japan and Caucasians in the United States showed greater amygdala activation to fear expressed by members of their own cultural group. This finding provides novel and surprising evidence of cultural tuning in an automatic neural response.