Functional neuroimaging studies have implicated amygdaloid and basal forebrain regions, including sublenticular extended amygdala (SLEA), in the mediation of aversive emotional responses. However, it is not clear whether SLEA responds to 'aversiveness' or to general stimulus salience. We predicted that both pleasant and aversive stimuli would activate this region. Using [(15)O] water PET, we studied 10 healthy subjects while viewing pleasant, aversive, neutral, and blank images. Each subject underwent eight scans, which were processed and averaged with standard statistical methods. Both positive and negative stimuli activated regions in SLEA. Both positive and negative content activated the visual cortex, relative to neutral content. Aversive stimuli deactivated the left frontal pole, relative to positive and neutral stimuli. These findings demonstrate that both positive and negative emotional content evokes processing in the sublenticular/extended amygdala region, suggesting that this region is involved in general emotional processing, such as detection or attribution of salience.
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