Neuroanatomical Correlates of Skin Conductance Orienting in Normal Humans: A Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study


  • This research was made possible through grants to the first author from the Medical Research Council in England (Grant #G860745ON) and by the Biomedical Research Support Grant Program, Division of Research Resources. NIH (BSRG S07 RR07012-21). The authors are grateful to Ty Cannon, Mike Dawson, David Lavond, Peter Venables, and three anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper, and to Dennis Bell, Steve Chipperfield, and Lindsay Reynolds for technical assistance.

Address requests for reprints to: Adrian Raine, Department of Psychology, S.G.M. Building, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061.


Although little is known about the neuroanatomical basis of skin conductance orienting in intact normal humans, the limited literature on animals and humans with neurological and clinical disorders implicate prefrontal, temporal/amygdala, and pons brain areas in mediating skin conductance orienting. This study relates area of these structures using magnetic resonance imaging techniques to skin conductance orienting responses in 17 normal humans in order to test hypotheses that larger area of these excitatory structures will be associated with more orienting responses. Left and right hand skin conductance orienting was significantly associated with left and right prefrontal area (r=.44-.60), area of the pons (r=.43-.54), and left but not right temporal/amygdala area (r=.47-.53). No relationships were observed with areas thought to be unrelated to skin conductance activity (cerebellum, nonfrontal cortical area), medial prefrontal cortex, or the third ventricle. This appears to be the first study relating brain structure to skin conductance orienting in intact normal humans. Although preliminary at the present time, these results implicate prefrontal, pons, and temporal/amygdala areas in the mediation of skin conductance orienting in normal humans.