August 2016
Volume 16, Issue 12
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2016
Compound facial threat cue perception: Contributions of visual pathways, aging, and anxiety
Author Affiliations
  • Reginald Adams
    Department of Psychology, College of the Liberal Arts, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Hee Yeon Im
    Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School
  • Cody Cushing
    Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School
  • Noreen Ward
    Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School
  • Jasmine Boshyan
    Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, Brandeis University
  • Troy Steiner
    Department of Psychology, College of the Liberal Arts, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Daniel Albohn
    Department of Psychology, College of the Liberal Arts, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Kestutis Kveraga
    Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School
Journal of Vision September 2016, Vol.16, 1375. doi:10.1167/16.12.1375
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      Reginald Adams, Hee Yeon Im, Cody Cushing, Noreen Ward, Jasmine Boshyan, Troy Steiner, Daniel Albohn, Kestutis Kveraga; Compound facial threat cue perception: Contributions of visual pathways, aging, and anxiety . Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):1375. doi: 10.1167/16.12.1375.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Abstract

Gaze direction and facial emotion can provide important cues about danger in the environment and are processed in what appears to be a functionally interactive and adaptive manner. Previous work has also revealed important individual differences in responses to compound threat cues. For instance, Individuals with high state anxiety showed increased amygdalar response to clear threat cues, while those with low anxiety were more sensitive to ambiguous threat cues (Ewbank et al., 2010). The effects of aging on the brain are another relevant factor to consider in this integrative process. In a large (N=131) fMRI study, we tested contributions of magnocellular (M) and parvocellular (P) pathways to threat cue integration, and examined how aging and anxiety influence processing. Participants (aged 18-71) viewed images of fearful or neutral faces with direct and averted gaze for one second presentations. These stimuli were presented in high luminance contrast (Unbiased), low luminance contrast (M-biased), or isoluminant red/green (P-biased) images. Overall, a clear threat cue (averted gaze fear) compared with a more ambiguous threat cue (averted gaze neutral) activated both amygdalae. We found that M-biased stimuli activated the right amygdala for ambiguous (fear with direct gaze) vs. clear (fear with averted gaze) threat cues. The older cohort (age greater than 50) showed greater activation in the amygdala and cortical face network to clear threat cues, while the younger cohort (age less than 40) had more overall activation to threat ambiguity. Further, right amygdala activity in the older cohort positively correlated (p 0.022) with state anxiety. Finally, high-anxiety subjects showed greater left amygdala activation to clear threat, while low-anxiety participants had increased bilateral amygdala activity to ambiguous threat. These findings suggest that perception of clear vs. ambiguous facial threat cues has different emphases in the M and P pathways, and interacts with perceivers' age and anxiety levels.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016

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