Processing facial expressions of emotion draws on a distributed brain network. In particular, judging ambiguous facial emotions involves coordination between multiple brain areas. Here, we applied multimodal functional connectivity analysis to achieve network-level understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying perceptual ambiguity in facial expressions. We found directional effective connectivity between the amygdala, dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), and ventromedial PFC, supporting both bottom-up affective processes for ambiguity representation/perception and top-down cognitive processes for ambiguity resolution/decision. Direct recordings from the human neurosurgical patients showed that the responses of amygdala and dmPFC neurons were modulated by the level of emotion ambiguity, and amygdala neurons responded earlier than dmPFC neurons, reflecting the bottom-up process for ambiguity processing. We further found parietal-frontal coherence and delta-alpha cross-frequency coupling involved in encoding emotion ambiguity. We replicated the EEG coherence result using independent experiments and further showed modulation of the coherence. EEG source connectivity revealed that the dmPFC top-down regulated the activities in other brain regions. Lastly, we showed altered behavioral responses in neuropsychiatric patients who may have dysfunctions in amygdala-PFC functional connectivity. Together, using multimodal experimental and analytical approaches, we have delineated a neural network that underlies processing of emotion ambiguity.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Biological Psychiatry