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Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing

Wolfson Fellow

Publication details for Dr Alexandre Schaefer

Schaefer, A., Braver, T.S., Reynolds, J.R., Burgess, G.C., Yarkoni, T., !& Gray & J.R. (2006). Individual differences in amygdala activity predict response speed during working memory. 26(40): Journal of Neuroscience 26(40): 10120-10128.
  • Publication type: Journal papers: academic
  • View online: Online version

Author(s) from Durham


The human amygdala has classically been viewed as a brain structure primarily related to emotions and dissociated from higher cognition. We report here findings suggesting that the human amygdala also has a role in supporting working memory (WM), a canonical higher cognitive function. In a first functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study (n = 53), individual differences in amygdala activity predicted behavioral performance in a 3-back WM task. Specifically, higher event-related amygdala amplitude predicted faster response time (RT; r = -0.64), with no loss of accuracy. This relationship was not contingent on mood state, task content, or personality variables. In a second fMRI study (n = 21), we replicated the key finding (r = -0.47) and further showed that the correlation between the amygdala and faster RT was specific to a high working memory load condition (3-back) compared with a low working memory load condition (1-back). These results support models of amygdala function that can account for its involvement not only in emotion but also higher cognition.