fMRI of sensitization to angry faces

M. M. Strauss, N. Makris, I. Aharon, M. G. Vangel, J. Goodman, D. N. Kennedy, G. P. Gasic, H. C. Breiter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


This study examined what is communicated by facial expressions of anger and mapped the neural substrates, evaluating the motivational salience of these stimuli. During functional magnetic resonance imaging, angry and neutral faces were presented to human subjects. Across experimental runs, signal adaptation was observed. Whereas fearful faces have reproducibly evoked response habituation in amygdala and prefrontal cortex, angry faces evoked sensitization in the insula, cingulate, thalamus, basal ganglia, and hippocampus. Complementary offline rating and keypress experiments determined an aversive rank ordering of angry, fearful, neutral, and happy faces and revealed behavioral sensitization to the angry faces. Subjects rated angry faces, in contrast to other face categories such as fear, as significantly more likely to directly inflict harm. Furthermore, they rated angry faces as significantly less likely to produce positive emotional outcomes than the other face categories. Together these data argue that angry faces, a directly aversive stimulus, produce a sensitization response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-413
Number of pages25
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2005


  • Aversion
  • Emotion
  • Habituation
  • Learning
  • Pain
  • Stress
  • Utility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'fMRI of sensitization to angry faces'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this