The neural correlates of aversive auditory stimulation

David H. Zald, José V. Pardo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


Previous neuroimaging studies indicate that the human amygdala activates during exposure to aversive visual, olfactory and gustatory stimuli. To examine amygdala responses to aversive auditory stimuli, we exposed healthy human subjects to unpleasant sounds while regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) was assayed with O-15 PET. Eight subjects, all of whom described themselves as reactive to aversive sounds, participated in the study. Relative to white noise, the aversive sounds produced significant rCBF increases in the lateral amygdala/claustrum region. Significant activations also localized to the dorsal brainstem, medial temporal pole, basal forebrain (nucleus accumbens), insula, right auditory association cortices, putamen, thalamus and cerebellum. These data indicate that the amygdala responds to aversive auditory stimuli in a manner similar to its response to unpleasant stimuli in other sensory modalities. The data further highlight a widely distributed network of cortical and subcortical areas activated during exposure to aversive sounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)746-753
Number of pages8
Issue number3 I
StatePublished - 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by Vanderbilt University, the Department of Veterans Affairs, NARSAD, and NIMH (MH11641-01A1). Special thanks to Greg Reierson for digital mastering, Richard Lee for scratchy violin samples, and Jo-Anne Bachorowski and Moria Smoski for assistance with spectograms. We also thank the staff of the Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit and PET Imaging Service at the Minneapolis VAMC, and the Affective Neuroimaging Laboratory at Vanderbilt University.


  • Amygdala
  • Auditory
  • Emotion
  • Human
  • Neuroimaging
  • Periaqueductal gray
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Temporal pole


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