Get access

FMRI activations of amygdala, cingulate cortex, and auditory cortex by infant laughing and crying


  • Part of this study was presented at the 34th Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, October 23–27, 2004, San Diego, USA.


One of the functions of emotional vocalizations is the regulation of social relationships like those between adults and children. Listening to infant vocalizations is known to engage amygdala as well as anterior and posterior cingulate cortices. But, the functional relationships between these structures still need further clarification. Here, nonparental women and men listened to laughing and crying of preverbal infants and to vocalization-derived control stimuli, while performing a pure tone detection task during low-noise functional magnetic resonance imaging. Infant vocalizations elicited stronger activation in amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) of women, whereas the alienated control stimuli elicited stronger activation in men. Independent of listeners' gender, auditory cortex (AC) and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) were more strongly activated by the control stimuli than by infant laughing or crying. The gender-dependent correlates of neural activity in amygdala and ACC may reflect neural predispositions in women for responses to preverbal infant vocalizations, whereas the gender-independent similarity of activation patterns in PCC and AC may reflect more sensory-based and cognitive levels of neural processing. In comparison to our previous work on adult laughing and crying, the infant vocalizations elicited manifold higher amygdala activation. Hum Brain Mapp 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.