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Lesion and neuroimaging studies suggest the amygdala is important in the perception and production of negative emotion; however, the effects of emotion regulation on the amygdalar response to negative stimuli remain unknown. Using event-related fMRI, we tested the hypothesis that voluntary modulation of negative emotion is associated with changes in neural activity within the amygdala. Negative and neutral pictures were presented with instructions to either "maintain" the emotional response or "passively view" the picture without regulating the emotion. Each picture presentation was followed by a delay, after which subjects indicated how they currently felt via a response keypad. Consistent with previous reports, greater signal change was observed in the amygdala during the presentation of negative compared to neutral pictures. No significant effect of instruction was found during the picture presentation component of the trial. However, a prolonged increase in signal change was observed in the amygdala when subjects maintained the negative emotional response during the delay following negative picture offset. This increase in amygdalar signal due to the active maintenance of negative emotion was significantly correlated with subjects' self-reported dispositional levels of negative affect. These results suggest that consciously evoked cognitive mechanisms that alter the emotional response of the subject operate, at least in part, by altering the degree of neural activity within the amygdala.
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Is our knowledge about the appearance of objects more closely related to verbal thought or to perception? In a behavioural study using a property verification task, Kosslyn (1976) reported that there are both amodal and perceptual representations of concepts, but that amodal representations may be more easily accessed. However, Solomon (1997) argued that due to the nature of Kosslyn’s stimuli, subjects may be able to bypass semantics entirely and perform this task using differences in the strength of association between words in true trials (e.g., cat–whiskers) and those in false trials (e.g., mouse–stinger). Solomon found no evidence for amodal representations when the task materials were altered to include associated false trials (e.g., cat–litter), which require semantic processing, as opposed to associative strategies. In the current study, we used fMRI to examine the response of regions of visual association cortex while subjects performed a property verification task with either associated or unassociated false trials. We found reliable activity across subjects within the left fusiform gyrus when true trials were intermixed with associated false trials but not when true trials were intermixed with unassociated false trials. Our data support the idea that conceptual knowledge is organised visually and that it is grounded in the perceptual system. One of the leading theories of the organisation of
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