Emotion modulates activity in the 'what' but not 'where' auditory processing pathway
Whereas there is ample evidence for a role of the amygdala in the processing of visual emotional stimuli, particularly those with negative value, discrepant results have been reported regarding amygdala responses to emotional auditory stimuli. The present study used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate cerebral activity underlying processing of emotional nonlinguistic vocalizations, with a particular focus on neural changes in the amygdala. Fourteen healthy volunteers were scanned while performing a gender identification task. Stimuli, previously validated on emotional valence, consisted of positive (happiness and sexual pleasure) and negative (sadness and fear) vocalizations, as well as emotionally neutral sounds (e.g., coughs). Results revealed bilateral amygdala activation in response to all emotional vocalizations when compared to neutral stimuli. These findings suggest that the generally accepted involvement of the amygdala in the perception of emotional visual stimuli, such as facial expressions, also applies to stimuli within the auditory modality. Importantly, this amygdala response was observed for both positive and negative emotional vocalizations.