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Title: The Distinct Role of the Amygdala, Superior Colliculus and Pulvinar in Processing of Central and Peripheral Snakes
Authors: Almeida, Inês 
Soares, Sandra 
Castelo-Branco, Miguel 
Keywords: snakes; amygdala; fear; emotions; face recognition; vision; face; superior colliculus; pulvinar; fMRI
Issue Date: Jun-2015
Project: FCT: PEst-C/SAU/UI3282/2013 
FCT: CENTRO-07- ST24-FEDER-00205 
FCT: FP7-HEALTH-2013- INNOVATION-1–602186 
FCT individual grant: SFRH / BD / 35973 / 2007 
Bial Foundation: 132/133–2013 
Serial title, monograph or event: PLoS One
Volume: 10
Issue: 10
Abstract: Introduction Visual processing of ecologically relevant stimuli involves a central bias for stimuli demanding detailed processing (e.g., faces), whereas peripheral object processing is based on coarse identification. Fast detection of animal shapes holding a significant phylogenetic value, such as snakes, may benefit from peripheral vision. The amygdala together with the pulvinar and the superior colliculus are implicated in an ongoing debate regarding their role in automatic and deliberate spatial processing of threat signals. Methods Here we tested twenty healthy participants in an fMRI task, and investigated the role of spatial demands (the main effect of central vs. peripheral vision) in the processing of fear-relevant ecological features. We controlled for stimulus dependence using true or false snakes; snake shapes or snake faces and for task constraints (implicit or explicit). The main idea justifying this double task is that amygdala and superior colliculus are involved in both automatic and controlled processes. Moreover the explicit/implicit instruction in the task with respect to emotion is not necessarily equivalent to explicit vs. implicit in the sense of endogenous vs. exogenous attention, or controlled vs. automatic processes. Results We found that stimulus-driven processing led to increased amygdala responses specifically to true snake shapes presented in the centre or in the peripheral left hemifield (right hemisphere). Importantly, the superior colliculus showed significantly biased and explicit central responses to snake-related stimuli. Moreover, the pulvinar, which also contains foveal representations, also showed strong central responses, extending the results of a recent single cell pulvinar study in monkeys. Similar hemispheric specialization was found across structures: increased amygdala responses occurred to true snake shapes presented to the right hemisphere, with this pattern being closely followed by the superior colliculus and the pulvinar. Conclusion These results show that subcortical structures containing foveal representations such as the amygdala, pulvinar and superior colliculus play distinct roles in the central and peripheral processing of snake shapes. Our findings suggest multiple phylogenetic fingerprints in the responses of subcortical structures to fear-relevant stimuli.
ISSN: 1932-6203
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0129949
Rights: openAccess
Appears in Collections:I&D IBILI - Artigos em Revistas Internacionais

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