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An fMRI investigation of race-related amygdala activity in African-American and Caucasian-American individuals


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to examine the nature of amygdala sensitivity to race. Both African-American and Caucasian-American individuals showed greater amygdala activity to African-American targets than to Caucasian-American targets, suggesting that race-related amygdala activity may result from cultural learning rather than from the novelty of other races. Additionally, verbal encoding of African-American targets produced significantly less amygdala activity than perceptual encoding of African-American targets.

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Figure 1: Task and amygdala responses.
Figure 2: Amygdala and RVLPFC responses to target race and encoding task.


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This work was supported by grants from National Science Foundation (BCS-0074562) and National Institute of Mental Health (MH66709) to M.D.L. The authors also wish to thank the Brain Mapping Medical Research Organization, Brain Mapping Support Foundation, Pierson-Lovelace Foundation, the Ahmanson Foundation, Tamkin Foundation, Jennifer Jones-Simon Foundation, Capital Group Companies Charitable Foundation, Robson Family, William M. and Linda R. Dietel Philanthropic Fund at the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation, Northstar Fund and the National Center for Research Resources (grants RR12169, RR13642 and RR08655) for their support.

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Correspondence to Matthew D Lieberman.

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Lieberman, M., Hariri, A., Jarcho, J. et al. An fMRI investigation of race-related amygdala activity in African-American and Caucasian-American individuals. Nat Neurosci 8, 720–722 (2005).

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