Nature Reviews Neuroscience 11, 773-783 (November 2010) | doi:10.1038/nrn2920

OpinionEmotion processing and the amygdala: from a 'low road' to 'many roads' of evaluating biological significance

See also: Correspondence by Luiz Pessoa & Ralph Adolphs | Correspondence by Marco Tamietto et. al

Luiz Pessoa1 & Ralph Adolphs2  About the authors


A subcortical pathway through the superior colliculus and pulvinar to the amygdala is commonly assumed to mediate the non-conscious processing of affective visual stimuli. We review anatomical and physiological data that argue against the notion that such a pathway plays a prominent part in processing affective visual stimuli in humans. Instead, we propose that the primary role of the amygdala in visual processing, like that of the pulvinar, is to coordinate the function of cortical networks during evaluation of the biological significance of affective visual stimuli. Under this revised framework, the cortex has a more important role in emotion processing than is traditionally assumed.

Author affiliations

  1. Luiz Pessoa is at the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA.
  2. Ralph Adolphs is at the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Computation and Neural Systems Program, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA.

Correspondence to: Luiz Pessoa1 Email:

Correspondence to: Ralph Adolphs2 Email: