Different amygdala subregions mediate valence-related and attentional effects of oxytocin in humans

Matthias Gamer*, Bartosz Zurowski, Christian Büchel

*Corresponding author for this work
345 Citations (Scopus)


The neuropeptide oxytocin enhances the processing of positive social stimuli and improves the capacity to effectively attend the eye region of conspecifics. To investigate the neural basis of these effects, we combined intranasal oxytocin administration with highresolution functional magnetic resonance imaging in a unique emotion classification task. Emotional faces were briefly presented while controlling for the initial fixation, and measuring subsequent eye movements. Oxytocin had differential effects on the activity of specific amygdala subregions. On the one hand, it attenuated activation in lateral and dorsal regions of the anterior amygdala for fearful faces but enhanced activity for happy expressions, thus indicating a shift of the processing focus toward positive social stimuli. Onthe other hand, oxytocin increased the likelihood of reflexive gaze shifts toward the eye region irrespective of the depicted emotional expression. This gazing pattern was related to an increase of activity in the posterior amygdala and an enhanced functional coupling of this region to the superior colliculi. Thus, different behavioral effects of oxytocin seem to be closely related its specific modulatory influence on subregions within the human amygdala.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number20
Pages (from-to)9400-9405
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 18.05.2010

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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