Increased amygdala activation to neutral faces is associated with better face memory performance

Natalia M. Kleinhans, Leonard C. Johnson, Roderick Mahurin, Todd Richards, Keith C. Stegbauer, Jessica Greenson, Geraldine Dawson, Elizabeth Aylward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Recent evidence suggests that the role of the amygdala may extend beyond threat detection to include processing socially relevant stimuli in general. Thus, we investigated perception and memory for neutral faces; a stimulus-type that lacks emotional valence yet contains relevant social information. Participants viewed neutral faces or houses when undergoing functional MRI. Neutral face memory testing was conducted outside the scanner. In the functional MRI of faces vs. houses contrast, significant bilateral activation in the amygdala and lateral fusiform gyrus was observed. Increased bilateral amygdala activation was associated with better delayed-memory performance. These findings indicate that the role of the amygdala may include processing neutral yet socially relevant stimuli. Further, amygdala activation, independent of emotional valence, appears to be associated with memory enhancement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)987-991
Number of pages5
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Amygdala
  • Emotional memory
  • Face memory
  • Face processing
  • Functional MRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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