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The ability to perceive and differentiate facial expressions is vital for social communication. Numerous functional MRI (fMRI) studies in humans have shown enhanced responses to faces with different emotional valence, in both the amygdala and the visual cortex. However, relatively few studies have examined how valence influences neural responses in monkeys, thereby limiting the ability to draw comparisons across species and thus understand the underlying neural mechanisms. Here we tested the effects of macaque facial expressions on neural activation within these two regions using fMRI in three awake, behaving monkeys. Monkeys maintained central fixation while blocks of different monkey facial expressions were presented. Four different facial expressions were tested: (i) neutral, (ii) aggressive (open-mouthed threat), (iii) fearful (fear grin), and (iv) submissive (lip smack). Our results confirmed that both the amygdala and the inferior temporal cortex in monkeys are modulated by facial expressions. As in human fMRI, fearful expressions evoked the greatest response in monkeys-even though fearful expressions are physically dissimilar in humans and macaques. Furthermore, we found that valence effects were not uniformly distributed over the inferior temporal cortex. Surprisingly, these valence maps were independent of two related functional maps: (i) the map of "face-selective" regions (faces versus non-face objects) and (ii) the map of "face-responsive" regions (faces versus scrambled images). Thus, the neural mechanisms underlying face perception and valence perception appear to be distinct.


Journal article


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA

Publication Date





5591 - 5596

Total pages