The human amygdala is thought to play a pivotal role in the processing of emotionally significant sensory information. The major subdivisions of the human amygdala-the laterobasal group (LB), the superficial group (SF), and the centromedial group (CM)-have been anatomically delineated, but the functional response properties of these amygdala subregions in humans are still unclear. We combined functional MRI with cyto-architectonically defined probabilistic maps to analyze the response characteristics of amygdala subregions in subjects presented with auditory stimuli. We found positive auditory stimulation-related signal changes predominantly in probabilistically defined LB, and negative responses predominantly in SF and CM. In the left amygdala, mean response magnitude in the core area of LB with 90-100% assignment probability was significantly larger than in the core areas of SF and CM. These differences were observed for pleasant and unpleasant stimuli. Our findings reveal that the probabilistically defined anatomical subregions of the human amygdala show distinctive fMRI response patterns. The stronger auditory responses in LB as compared with SF and CM may reflect a predominance of auditory inputs to human LB, similar to many animal species in which the majority of sensory, including auditory, afferents project to this subdivision of the amygdala. Our study indicates that the intrinsic functional differentiation of the human amygdala may be probed using fMRI combined with probabilistic anatomical maps.
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