Excessively increased or decreased fear is strongly associated with a number of brain disorders, including social and animal phobias, posttraumatic stress disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and William's syndrome. The amygdala is confirmed to play an important role in emotional processing, particularly for negative/threatening stimuli. Recent studies have also shown that the amygdala is responsive to social stimuli, including neutral faces and visual social information. However, the stimuli used in most of these studies contain human or human-related information, which indicates that the amygdala is sensitive to animate, conspecific information. Little is known about whether the amygdala plays a more general role in processing any animate entities, and further, what the common role of the amygdala is in different varieties of brain disorders. Our long-term goal is to determine neural mechanisms of fear to different categories of stimuli. The objective of this proposal is to determine how the amygdala participates in processing different categories of threatening stimuli;i.e., threatening animals and manipulable objects. The central hypothesis for the proposed research is that the amygdala activity is highly associated with detecting animate entities (i.e., living things that move on their own). Our rationale for the proposed research is that determination of the relationship between stimulus category and amygdala activation would shed light on neural mechanisms of fear and emotional-related brain disorders. We plan to test our central hypothesis and accomplish the overall objective of this application by pursuing three specific aims, to determine the effects of (1) modality;(2) animate and social context;and (3) conscious awareness on amygdala activation for threatening animals and objects. A series of studies will be conducted, mainly using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technique, with native Chinese speakers as subjects. In order to equate affective levels across categories, valence and arousal levels will be rated and matched before fMRI scanning in separate groups of subjects. This proposed research is significant, because it will not only elucidate the category representation in the amygdala, but also help us understand the nature of emotional-related brain disorders, and contribute to an improvement on rehabilitative efforts for patients with such disorders.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed research is highly relevant to public health. It will help us understand the nature of emotional-related brain disorders, and contribute to an improvement in rehabilitative efforts for patients with such disorders. There is also a significant positive impact in understanding how the amygdala is prepared in an evolutionary manner when people are afraid of different categories of threatening stimuli.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Fogarty International Center (FIC)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
International and Cooperative Projects - 1 Study Section (ICP1)
Program Officer
Liu, Xingzhu
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Peking University
Zip Code
Wang, Yang; Yang, Jiongjiong (2017) Effects of Arousal and Context on Recognition Memory for Emotional Pictures in Younger and Older Adults. Exp Aging Res 43:124-148
Feng, Xue; Gu, Ruolei; Liang, Fucheng et al. (2015) Depressive states amplify both upward and downward counterfactual thinking. Int J Psychophysiol 97:93-8
Fan, Cong; He, Weiqi; He, Huamin et al. (2015) N170 Changes Show Identifiable Chinese Characters Compete Primarily with Faces Rather than Houses. Front Psychol 6:1952
Cao, Zhijun; Zhao, Yanbing; Tan, Tengteng et al. (2014) Distinct brain activity in processing negative pictures of animals and objects - the role of human contexts. Neuroimage 84:901-10
Zhang, Dandan; Gu, Ruolei; Wu, Tingting et al. (2013) An electrophysiological index of changes in risk decision-making strategies. Neuropsychologia 51:1397-407
Yang, Qiwei; Gu, Ruolei; Tang, Ping et al. (2013) How does cognitive reappraisal affect the response to gains and losses? Psychophysiology 50:1094-103
Yang, Jiongjiong; Zhao, Peng; Zhu, Zijian et al. (2013) Memory asymmetry of forward and backward associations in recognition tasks. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn 39:253-69
Xu, Pengfei; Gu, Ruolei; Broster, Lucas S et al. (2013) Neural basis of emotional decision making in trait anxiety. J Neurosci 33:18641-53
Luo, Shuwei; Luo, Wenbo; He, Weiqi et al. (2013) P1 and N170 components distinguish human-like and animal-like makeup stimuli. Neuroreport 24:482-6
Tan, Tengteng; Li, Han; Wang, Yingying et al. (2013) Are we afraid of different categories of stimuli in identical ways? Evidence from skin conductance responses. PLoS One 8:e73165

Showing the most recent 10 out of 43 publications