Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Stanford University


Image of Cover

Amygdala Responses to Emotionally Valenced Stimuli in Older and Younger Adults

Journal Article

M Mather, T Canli, T English, S Whitfield, P Wais, K Ochsner, JD Gabrieli, Laura L. Carstensen

Published by
Psychological Science, Vol. 15 no. 4, page(s) 259-263
April 2004

As they age, adults experience less negative emotion, come to pay less attention to negative than to positive emotional stimuli, and become less likely to remember negative than positive emotional materials. This profile of findings suggests that, with age, the amygdala may show decreased reactivity to negative information while maintaining or increasing its reactivity to positive information. We used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess whether amygdala activation in response to positive and negative emotional pictures changes with age. Both older and younger adults showed greater activation in the amygdala for emotional than for neutral pictures; however, for older adults, seeing positive pictures led to greater amygdala activation than seeing negative pictures, whereas this was not the case for younger adults.