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AMYGDALA ROLE IN FACE RECOGNITION

Viso Comutational e Percepo Biolgica

Graziana DEmilio
A.A. 2010/2011

Summary: In this text we will try to explain the relation between amygdala and face recognition process. The amygdala is involved in analyzing feelings, and it shows connections with the visual area having an important role in face recognition, particularly in the association of the face to the social meaning of the person identified, and recognition of fear.

Keywords: Amygdala, ventral stream, facial recognition.

Contents
Introduction ..............................................................................................................................................................2 Amygdala ....................................................................................................................................................2 Dorsal Sream Versus Ventral Stream ..........................................................................................................2 Amygdalas role in face recognition ........................................................................................................................4 Conclusions ..............................................................................................................................................................8 Bibliography .............................................................................................................................................................9 Figure Index..............................................................................................................................................................9

1. Introduction

Amygdala
The amygdala is an almost-shaped structure located anterior to the hypothalamus and basal forebrain. It is composed of 3 sets of nuclei: Basolateral nuclei Corticomedial nuclei Central nucleus Major inputs of the amygdala include highly processed sensory stimuli from the temporal lobe, direct olfactory information, and limbic and autonomic information from the orbitofrontal lobe, cingulate gyrus, hypothalamus, and midbrain tegmentum. Major outputs include the hypothalamus (via the ventral amygdalofugal pathway), thalamus, striatum, septal nuclei, hippocampus, inferior temporal cortex (e.g. visual areas) and multiple other cortical areas. It is involved in emotional response, including rage. Lesions of the amygdala can cause behavioral abnormalities, as outbursts or docility. (1)

Figure 1: Amygdala anatomy (2)

Dorsal Stream versus Ventral Stream

Figure 2: Brain, visual cortex. Red = Brodmann area 17 (primary visual cortex); orange = area 18; yellow = area 19 (3)

Figure 3: The dorsal stream (green) and ventral stream (purple) originate from primary visual cortex (3)

From the retina the image arrives to the occipital lobe across the optical nerve. So visual information already exists in the occipital lobe and from here the image can follows two main channels (or stream): The dorsal stream (analyze where) The ventral stream (analyze what) While the dorsal stream is related to the space around our body, all the environment, analyzing the scene in which we are moving, the ventral stream analyzes images details. (4) The ventral stream is associated with object recognition and form representation. It has strong connections with medial temporal lobe (long-term memories), limbic system (including amygdala, emotions control) and the dorsal stream. It plays a central role in judging the significance of the seen elements. (3)

2. Amygdalas role in face recognition


Amygdala plays a central role in processing the social relevance of information gleaned from faces, particularly when that information may signal a potential threat. (5) Facial emotion recognition activated inferior frontal cortex, amygdala and different parts of temporal cortex in a relatively consistent time sequence, as we can see in the images below. In this scheme are explained the connections and relative interactions of different systems in the brain involved in face recognition.

Figure 4: Face perception and attention systems, connection between involved areas. (6)

Another model (figure 5) explains the organization of the distributed human neural system for face perception. It is divided into a core system for the visual analysis of faces, which consists of three regions: Inferior occipital gyri: early perception of facial features Superior temporal sulcus: changeable aspects of faces, eye gaze, expressions, lip movement Lateral fusiform gyri: invariant aspects of faces, perception of the identity. (5) Changeable and invariant aspects of the visual facial configuration have distinct representations in the core system. Interactions between these representations in the core system and regions in the extended system mediate Processing of the spatial focus of anothers attention, Speech-related mouth movements, Facial expression and identity. Processing the emotional content of a face and the evocation of an emotional response to a face can be based on changeable aspects of the face, such as expression and eye gaze, or on identity and knowledge of the person being viewed. (5)

Figure 5: Distributed human neural system for face perception. (5)

Clues to the neural basis of the recognition of facial expressions of emotion have also been obtained through studies with non-human primates. In primates the amygdala seems to play a particular role in the recognition of fearful expressions. Cerebral blood flow studies have suggested that also in healthy humans the inferior frontal cortex, the amygdala, the middle temporal gyrus and the fusiform gyrus as well as the right anterior cingulate are activated during recognition of facial expressions. (7)

Figure 6: Activation sequence for a face recognition with time reference (7)

As we can see in the image above, the areas were activated in roughly the following time sequence posterior sector of right superior temporal cortex, middle sector of right temporal cortex, right amygdala, posterior sector of right superior temporal cortex approximately together with middle sector of left temporal cortex, left inferior frontal cortex, further reactivations of the temporal and left inferior frontal structures. However this sequence is not completely consistent in all of the subjects studied form Carmen Morawetz et al., but this finding confirms numerous reports about the role of the amygdala in the evaluation of social and emotional significance of incoming sensory information. Furthermore, this area has been proposed to be a central part of a system that integrates emotion and memory, a function that is certainly important for facial expression recognition. (8) Although activity from the amygdala was expected to be present during the facial affect recognition task, a reliable neuromagnetic correlate of this activity was not guaranteed, partly because of the small size of the amygdala, and partly because of its deep location. This may well be the reason why the activity was not consistently observed across the four subjects studied form Carmen Morawetz et al. (8) .

Other neuroimaging studies analyze the relation of the analysis of emotional-laden visual stimuli with the availability of attentional resources. Two main factors have been proposed to be responsible for the discrepancies: Differences in the perceptual attentional demands of the tasks used to divert attentional resources from emotional stimuli Spatial location of the affective stimuli in the visual field. (7) The study carried on by Carmen Morawetz et al. investigates the effects of high and low attentional load as well as different stimulus locations on face processing in the amygdala using functional magnetic resonance imaging to provide further evidence for one of the two opposing theories. They tested the interaction of attentional load and spatial location. The results revealed a strong attenuation of amygdala activity when the attentional load was high. The eccentricity of the emotional stimuli did not affect responses in the amygdala and no interaction effect between attentional load and spatial location was found. The study concluded that the processing of emotional stimuli in the amygdala is strongly dependent on the availability of attentional resources without a preferred processing of stimuli presented in the periphery and provide firm evidence for the concept of the attentional load theory of emotional processing in the amygdala. (7) This means that a diverting attention limits the ability in face recognition. Another study supports the response of the amygdala to face recognition. Carried on from Young et al. it studies face processing abilities of a woman after amygdalectomy. (9) The analyzed patient is D.R., a 51-year-old woman with a partial bilateral amygdalotomy. D.R. was able to recognize pre-operatively familiar faces, but she showed generalized problems of name retrieval and a more circumscribed deficit affecting the recognition of faces learnt post-operatively. In contrast to her poor memory for new faces, D.R.'s ability to match simultaneously presented photographs of unfamiliar faces was unimpaired. However, D.R. also experienced deficits in expression processing which compromised the recognition of emotion from people's faces; she was poor both at matching and at identifying photographs of emotional facial expressions. In addition, her interpretation of eye gaze direction was defective, showing a more general problem in reading social signals from the face. The presence of impairments affecting the learning of new faces and the comprehension of gaze direction and facial expressions of emotion is consistent with the hypothesis of a role for the amygdala in learning and social behavior. (9) The study on D.R. shows the amygdala as involved in expressions recognition. The perception of emotional expressions evokes activity in brain regions that are associated with emotion. A magneto-encephalography (MEG) study (8) shows as judgment of emotion from expression first elicited a stronger response, as compared to simple face detection. Perception of fear in the face of another person has been found consistently to evoke a response in the amygdala as we can see in the image below.

Figure 7: The amygdala shows higher rates of activity when viewing fearful facial expressions (A) and when viewing faces with direct gaze (B). (5)

Regardless of its expression, a face is a salient emotional stimulus, allowing us to distinguish friend from foe and conveying crucial information for social interactions (e.g., identity, race, sex, attractiveness, direction of eye gaze). Thus, all faces, even so called unexpressive or neutral faces will have emotional signicance and so may have special access to visual attention. However, automatic processing and/or attentional biases seem most likely for facial expressions displaying threat or danger, which if rapidly detected may confer a crucial survival advantage. These include fearful faces, which may warn of an environmental threat to be avoided, angry faces, which signify impending aggression and disgusted faces, which reect the possibility of physical contamination. The impact of attention on the processing of fear, anger and disgust is often contrasted with the processing of other basic or universal expressions, such as happiness, sadness and surprise. (6)

Figure 8: Some studies about amygdala in face recognition. (6)

Ins Almida in her last study is using the amygdala response to images that cause fear as snakes. The objectives of this work are Understand if the neural network for processing threatening signals differs when using central and peripherals vision, Understand if the central versus peripherals input preference depend on the thype of stimulus processed Understand how this is affected by nature of the task. (10)

3. Conclusions
The role played by the amygdala in processing facial emotion appears to be greatest for the processing fear or potential threat but also may involve aspects of social cognition that are not clearly related to fear. The amygdala, as confirmed in the cited studies, plays an important role in face recognition as: Processing fear Recognize specific negative emotions (such as fear and anger) Analyze social cognition (such as judging the state of mind based on perception of eye gazing) (5) Amygdala activity during face perception may also reflect emotional responses that are unrelated to the emotional expression on the face being viewed. These emotional responses may reflect the extent to which a social encounter makes one feel guarded or safe and at ease. Perception of direct gaze, for example, elicits a response in the amygdala (Figure 7). This response may reflect the ambiguous meaning of direct gaze in human social interactions. On the one hand, a direct gaze may indicate interest or attraction. On the other hand, direct gaze can indicate potential threat (that is processed in the amygdala). Perception of the faces of familiar and unfamiliar individuals can also modulate activity in the amygdala. The perception of familiar faces elicits less activity in the amygdala than does perception of unfamiliar faces, and this diminution of activity is greater when viewing personally familiar faces, such as family and friends, than when viewing famous familiar faces. This reduction of activity may be associated with feeling more at ease and less guarded when one is with close acquaintances as compared to when one is with strangers. (5)

Bibliography
1. E.Safdieh, Michael Rubin and Joseph. Netter's Coincise Neuroanatomy. 2. http://www9.biostr.washington.edu. [Online] 3. en.wikipedia.org. [Online] 4. Hall, Guiton and. Human Physiology . 5. James V. Haxby, Elizabeth A. Hoffman, and M. Ida Gobbini. Human Neural Systems for Face Recognition and Social Communication. 6. Romina Palermo, Gillan Rhodes. Are you always on my mind? A review of how face perception and attention interact. 7. Diverting attention suppresses human amygdala responses to faces. Carmen Morawetz, Juergen Baudewig, Stefan Treue and Peter Dechent. December 3, 2010, frontiers in Human Neuroscience. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2010.00226aspects. 8. Neurophysiological correlates of the recognition of facial expressions of emotion as revealed by magnetoencephalography. al., M. Streit et. 1999. 9. Andrew W. Young, John P. Aggleton, Deborah J. Hellawell, Michael Johnson, Paul Broks and J. Richard Hanley. Face processing impairments after amygdalotomy. Brain. 1995. 10. Almida, Ins. Research.

Figure Index
Figure 1: Amygdala anatomy (2) .............................................................................................................................................. 2 Figure 2: Brain, visual cortex. Red = Brodmann area 17 (primary visual cortex); ................................................................... 3 Figure 3: The dorsal stream (green) and ventral stream (purple) ............................................................................................... 3 Figure 4: Face perception and attention systems, connection between involved areas. (6) ....................................................... 4 Figure 5: Distributed human neural system for face perception. (5) ......................................................................................... 5 Figure 6: Activation sequence for a face recognition with time reference (7) .......................................................................... 5 Figure 7: The amygdala shows higher rates of activity when viewing fearful facial expressions (A) ....................................... 7 Figure 8: Some studies about amygdala in face recognition. (6) ............................................................................................... 7