Valence-Dependent Coupling of Prefrontal-Amygdala Effective Connectivity during Facial Affect Processing

David Willinger, Iliana I Karipidis, Selina Beltrani, Sarah V Di Pietro, Ronald Sladky, Susanne Walitza, Philipp Stämpfli, Silvia Brem

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

21 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the importance of the prefrontal-amygdala (AMY) network for emotion processing, valence-dependent coupling within this network remains elusive. In this study, we assessed the effect of emotional valence on brain activity and effective connectivity. We tested which functional pathways within the prefrontal-AMY network are specifically engaged during the processing of emotional valence. Thirty-three healthy adults were examined with functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing a dynamic faces and dynamic shapes matching task. The valence of the facial expressions varied systematically between positive, negative, and neutral across the task. Functional contrasts determined core areas of the emotion processing circuitry, comprising the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), the right lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC), the AMY, and the right fusiform face area (FFA). Dynamic causal modelling demonstrated that the bidirectional coupling within the prefrontal-AMY circuitry is modulated by emotional valence. Additionally, Bayesian model averaging showed significant bottom-up connectivity from the AMY to the MPFC during negative and neutral, but not positive, valence. Thus, our study provides strong evidence for alterations of bottom-up coupling within the prefrontal-AMY network as a function of emotional valence. Thereby our results not only advance the understanding of the human prefrontal-AMY circuitry in varying valence context, but, moreover, provide a model to examine mechanisms of valence-sensitive emotional dysregulation in neuropsychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberENEURO.0079-19.2019
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult
  • Amygdala/physiology
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Brain Mapping
  • Emotions/physiology
  • Facial Expression
  • Facial Recognition/physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways/physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex/physiology
  • Young Adult


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