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.

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