Preferential responses in amygdala and insula during presentation of facial contempt and disgust

Fabio Sambataro, Savino Dimalta, Annabella Di Giorgio, Paolo Taurisano, Giuseppe Blasi, Tommaso Scarabino, Giuseppe Giannatempo, Marcello Nardini, Alessandro Bertolino
European Journal of Neuroscience 2006, 24 (8): 2355-62
Some authors consider contempt to be a basic emotion while others consider it a variant of disgust. The neural correlates of contempt have not so far been specifically contrasted with disgust. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we investigated the neural networks involved in the processing of facial contempt and disgust in 24 healthy subjects. Facial recognition of contempt was lower than that of disgust and of neutral faces. The imaging data indicated significant activity in the amygdala and in globus pallidus and putamen during processing of contemptuous faces. Bilateral insula and caudate nuclei and left as well as right inferior frontal gyrus were engaged during processing of disgusted faces. Moreover, direct comparisons of contempt vs. disgust yielded significantly different activations in the amygdala. On the other hand, disgusted faces elicited greater activation than contemptuous faces in the right insula and caudate. Our findings suggest preferential involvement of different neural substrates in the processing of facial emotional expressions of contempt and disgust.

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