Nat Commun. 2022 Oct 22;13(1):6302. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-33580-7.
Viewing faces that are perceived as emotionally expressive evokes enhanced neural responses in multiple brain regions, a phenomenon thought to depend critically on the amygdala. This emotion-related modulation is evident even in primary visual cortex (V1), providing a potential neural substrate by which emotionally salient stimuli can affect perception. How does emotional valence information, computed in the amygdala, reach V1? Here we use high-resolution functional MRI to investigate the layer profile and retinotopic distribution of neural activity specific to emotional facial expressions. Across three experiments, human participants viewed centrally presented face stimuli varying in emotional expression and performed a gender judgment task. We found that facial valence sensitivity was evident only in superficial cortical layers and was not restricted to the retinotopic location of the stimuli, consistent with diffuse feedback-like projections from the amygdala. Together, our results provide a feedback mechanism by which the amygdala directly modulates activity at the earliest stage of visual processing.