All posts by Alexa Vicente

Emotions (Fear Faces)

The Authors: The article entitled “Cultural Specificity in Amygdala Response to Fear Faces” was researched by Joan Y. Chiao, Tetsuya Iidaka, Heather L. Gordon, Junpei Nogawa, Moshe Bar, Elissa Aminoff, Norihiro Sadato, and Nalini Ambady. All of these researchers sought to study the amygdala and whether cultural specificity had an affect on the neural response to fear faces.

Intro: The human amygdala is greatly activated to fear faces. It is thought that this heightened response is a reflection of an adaptive social signal to either warn or solicit help from others. Prior neuroimaging studies have only examined amygdala response to different emotional stimuli in participants within the same culture and not cross culturally, it remains unknown whether culture affects the neural response to fear faces. The researchers’ decided to test their hypotheses on two distinct cultures, native Japanese in Japan and Caucasians in the United States.

fear 1-001

Hypotheses: The authors had came up with two hypotheses for this research.
H1: Given automatic, prepotent nature of amygdala response to fear faces and the adaptive importance of responding to any signal of imminent danger in the environment, cultural affiliation will not affect the amygdala response to fear faces.
H2: Amygdala response may be enhanced for own- culture fear faces, given the greater similarity between self and other members of the same cultural group.

The purpose of the present work was to investigate these two competing hypotheses regarding culture and neural activation in response to fear faces. The researchers used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging in two distinct cultures to investigate cultural specificity in the amygdala’s response. In total the experiment had 20 healthy participants both men and women between the ages of 18-25 years, with corrected- to-normal vision, that were right- handed. The experiment used digitized grayscale pictures of 80 faces each with either a fearful, a neutral, a happy, or an angry expression taken from Japanese and Caucasian posers (20 men and 20 women from each cultural group). All participants were tested within their own culture by an experimenter who conducted the study in their native language, for each trial participants made an emotion categorization judgment using one of four buttons, the order of the stimuli was randomized within and between functional runs.

The fMRI results were evaluated in two different ways, through actual activation of the amygdala and response time/accuracy of emotions. Consistent with the researcher’s hypotheses, whole brain analyses revealed greater activation within regions of left and right amygdala for own culture compared to other-culture fear faces. Greater response to own-culture fear faces was also found in medial-temporal regions critical to successful encoding and retrieval of faces. The study showed that Caucasian participants were significantly more accurate at recognizing fear in their own-culture relative to other culture faces, while Japanese participants were faster in recognizing fear relative to Caucasian participants. To examine whether a culture of participant and a culture of face was present at higher thresholds, anatomical ROI analyses were also conducted. The anatomical ROI analyses also confirmed that amygdala response for recognizing fear was significantly greater for member’s of one’s own culture compared to other cultural groups. No other significant response for other emotional expressions were found in the ROI analyses.

In sum, the study demonstrates that cultural specificity ( or membership) modulates the brain’s primary response to fear. This is significant because the previously demonstration of the automatic, prepotent nature of the amygdala responses to fear faces underscores the significance of further cross-cultural testing at the neural level.

Sports Culture

I know I’m late with my introductory blog, but hopefully I am doing this right and you all enjoy!


I really struggled to come up with a specific topic to write about because outside of this whole school thing I feel like I am all over the place. Then I realized the whole reason I felt like I was all over the place was because of sports. My whole life I have either been at school or at a practice. Although I no longer play sports,  I am fortunate enough to have landed an internship with the Athletic Events Management Department here at Alabama. I have been to about 65% of all of the athletic events on campus in the past 3 years. Now looking back, that’s  A LOT of my time. I would consider my internship more of a hobby because I do not get any form of school credit for it, just a resume’ boost honestly.

Aside from just Alabama Athletics, I am simply obsessed with sports. My TV is constantly on ESPN, my twitter feed, instagram, email, notifications on my phone -everything is filled with sports information. My favorite sports however are football, basketball, and softball.  I was the little girl at all the football games with her dad , who could name all the positions, the plays, the players, etc. Similar to Hayden Panettiere’s role in Remember the Titans, well the good parts of her role, (Ironically, I grew up a Tennessee Titans fan).  Basketball was a big family sport to watch when I was younger. My Filipino family has always been obsessed with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Basketball is a very popular sport in the Philippines, although most Filipino’s do not have the height for the sport they still very much appreciate and play the game. Literally, my cousin was so obsessed with basketball he named his daughter MJ(after Michael Jordan). I cannot make this type of stuff up.  Lastly, softball is one of my favorite sports because I played it for over 15 years. I miss the game a lot, but I thought I wanted to have a life. Little did I know that my life would still be consumed with it in some form or way.

Sports are thought to some as an element of culture. It is interesting to see it’s on going evolution within our culture to being considered only form of entertainment and to almost a subculture within its itself.

Historically: Sports can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, where healthy, athletic bodies were very evident in their art and where the Olympics originated from. Progressively during the World Wars, there was steady growth in the participation of sports continued for all classes of society to where we are today, as a part of a national culture that extends to majority of the population.

Proximally: The only way I can explain this is by saying since I was raised playing sports, watching sports, and being around different sports that is was only seemed fitting for me to like them as much as I do. It’s a good possibility that since I was always with my dad more than my mom that could have heavily influenced my perception.  I also met all my best friends through playing sports, being at the ballpark, and places like that. We were all raised through sports.

Developmental: Of course as a child I wanted to be around my friends as much as possible and essentially have play time with them.  So wanting to have friends and be around friends is appropriate for developing children. Sports also helps teach rules, social skills, and not to mention physical development.

Functionally: Physical development is an obvious pro of sports, I would like to think that not only does it help with one’s body but  the mind also. There’s been several studies done where sports help with stress and looking back at history sports have been used to promote peace and unification for culture’s also.

This isn’t the last you will hear about me talking about sports culture, this barely scratches the surface. But here is a pic of me working the first football game of last season with my coworkers. Hope to see you all at Bryant Denny Saturday!