Human amygdala activity during the expression of fear responses

Dominic T. Cheng, David C. Knight, Christine N. Smith, Fred J. Helmstetter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


The initial learning and subsequent behavioral expression of fear are often viewed as independent processes with potentially unique neural substrates. Laboratory animal studies of Pavlovian fear conditioning suggest that the amygdala is important for both forming stimulus associations and for subsequently expressing learned behavioral responses. In the present article, human amygdala activity was studied during the autonomic expression of conditional fear in two differential conditioning experiments with event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging and concurrent recording of skin conductance responses (SCRs). Trials were classified on the basis of individual participants' SCRs. Significant amygdala responding was detected only during trials on which a signal both predicted shock and elicited significant conditional SCR. Conditional stimulus presentation or autonomic activity alone was not sufficient. These results indicate that amygdala activity may specifically reflect the expression of learned fear responses and support the position that this region plays a central role in the expression of emotional reactions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1187-1195
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Amygdala
  • Emotion
  • Fear conditioning
  • Memory
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Human amygdala activity during the expression of fear responses'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this