The amygdala has a key role in automatic non-conscious processing of emotions. Highly salient emotional stimuli elicit amygdala activity, and happy faces are among the most rapidly perceived facial expressions. In backward masking paradigms, an image is presented briefly and then masked by another stimulus. However, reports of amygdala responses to masked happy faces have been mixed. In the present study, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine amygdala activation to masked happy, sad, and neutral facial expressions. Masked happy faces elicited greater amygdala activation bilaterally as compared to masked sad faces. Our findings indicate that the amygdala is highly responsive to non-consciously perceived happy facial expressions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-7
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society : JINS
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Amygdala/physiology
  • Expressed Emotion
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perceptual Masking
  • Young Adult


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