Osaka, N., Minamoto, T., Yaoi, K., & Osaka, M.
Neural correlates of delicate sadness: An fMRI study based on the
neuroaesthetics of Noh-masks
Although the role of the amygdala in processing facial expressions of
fear is well established, its role in the processing of other emotions,
such as sadness, remains unclear. We hypothesized that the amygdala
would respond to a negative emotion such as sadness, when sadness was
represented by a theatrical mask. In the traditional Japanese Noh
theater, performers use masks to indicate many of the mental states of
the characters they portray. Here, we report a functional MRI study, in
which participants’ brains were scanned while viewing Noh masks, whose
faces appeared delicately sad. Among seventy standard Noh masks
previously rated by the individual participants, we chose six top-rated
sad masks and six neutral masks to study the neural correlates of such
delicate sadness. Results based on a region of interest analysis
indicated the activation of the right amygdala while viewing sad masks.
We suggest the fact that such delicate sad masks could activate the
amygdala, and it could possibly be because of an underlying similarity
to emotions such as fear and disgust.