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A category-specific response to animals in the right human amygdala


The amygdala is important in emotion, but it remains unknown whether it is specialized for certain stimulus categories. We analyzed responses recorded from 489 single neurons in the amygdalae of 41 neurosurgical patients and found a categorical selectivity for pictures of animals in the right amygdala. This selectivity appeared to be independent of emotional valence or arousal and may reflect the importance that animals held throughout our evolutionary past.

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Figure 1: Amygdala neurons respond preferentially to animal pictures.
Figure 2: A specific category response to animals in the right amygdala at the population level.


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We thank all of our subjects for their participation, E. Behnke, T. Fields, E. Ho, V. Isiaka, E. Isham, K. Laird, N. Parikshak and A. Postolova for technical assistance with the electrophysiological recordings, and D. Tsao, I. Riedel-Kruse, U. Rutishauser and K. Fliessbach for useful discussion and comments on the manuscript. This research was supported by grants from the European Commission (Marie Curie OIF 040445, to F.M.), World Class University program through the National Research Foundation of Korea funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (R31-10008, to C.K.), the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Foundation, the Gimbel Discovery Fund, and the Dana Foundation.

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F.M., S.K., R.Q.Q., I.F. and C.K. designed the electrophysiology study. I.F. carried out all of the neurosurgical procedures. F.M., M.C., M.I., R.Q.Q., A.K. and I.F. collected the electrophysiological data, and S.K. and F.M. analyzed the electrophysiological data. F.M., N.T., M.M., C.K. and R.A. designed the fMRI control experiment, F.M., M.M., J.D. and N.T. collected the fMRI data, and J.D. and F.M. analyzed the fMRI data. F.M., R.A. and C.K. wrote the paper. All of the authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Florian Mormann.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Supplementary Figures 1–12, Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Results, Supplementary Control Analyses and SupSupplementary Discussion (PDF 2944 kb)

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Mormann, F., Dubois, J., Kornblith, S. et al. A category-specific response to animals in the right human amygdala. Nat Neurosci 14, 1247–1249 (2011).

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