Science Times: Amygdala Activation and Perception of Harmful Intent

The amygdala is thought to be a critical hub for the processing of emotionally salient stimuli. In fact, a planned clinical trial in posttraumatic stress disorder targeting the amygdala with deep brain stimulation is based on a pathophysiological model in which amygdala hyperactivity is associated with reminders of the traumatic event.1 The study of the amygdala and its cortical projections in humans, however, has been limited by technological constraints of noninvasive imaging. These constraints include inadequate temporal resolution in functional magnetic resonance imaging needed to separate early stages of information processing, when the signal may be muddled by nearby draining veins from other brain regions, and the fact that the subcortical location of the amygdala limits its signal strength that can be captured with scalp electroencephalography and magnetoencephalography. As a result, many functional roles of the amygdala are not clearly understood, despite the potential relevance of this structure to cognitive dysfunction in mesial temporal lobe epilepsy and neuropsychiatric disorders.

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