Behind the mask: The influence of mask-type on amygdala response to fearful faces

M. Justin Kim, Rebecca A. Loucks, Maital Neta, F. Caroline Davis, Jonathan A. Oler, Emily C. Mazzulla, Paul J. Whalen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


In this study, we compared the effects of using neutral face masks vs non-face pattern masks on amygdala activity to masked fearful faces. Twenty-seven subjects viewed 18 s blocks of either fearful or happy faces masked with either neutral faces or patterns, while their brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Results replicated increased amygdala activation to face-masked fearful vs happy faces. In the pattern mask condition, the amygdala discriminated between masked fearful and happy faces, but this effect manifested as a decrease in activation to fearful faces compared to happy faces. This interactive effect between facial expression and mask stimulus shows that amygdala responses to masked fearful faces are influenced by the fearful stimuli per se as well as their interaction with the mask stimulus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbernsq014
Pages (from-to)363-368
Number of pages6
JournalSocial cognitive and affective neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Amygdala
  • Backward masking
  • Face
  • Fear
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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