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important for emotion processing and interoception.

Methodology/Principal Findings: Navy Sea, Air, and Land Forces (SEALs) while off duty (n = 11) were compared with n = 23 healthy male volunteers while performing a simple emotion face-processing task during functional magnetic resonance imaging. Irrespective of the target emotion, elite war fighters relative to comparison subjects showed relatively greater right sided insula, but attenuated left-sided insula, activation. Navy SEALs showed selectively greater activation to angry target faces relative to fearful or happy target faces bilaterally in the insula. This was not accounted for by contrasting positive versus negative emotions. Finally, these individuals also showed slower response latencies to fearful and happy target faces than did comparison subjects.

Conclusions/Significance: These findings support the hypothesis that elite war-fighters deploy greater processing resources toward potential threat-related facial expressions and reduced processing resources to non-threat-related facial expressions. Moreover, rather than expending more effort in general, elite war-fighters show more focused neural and performance tuning. In other words, greater neural processing resources are directed toward threat stimuli and processing resources are conserved when facing a non-threat stimulus situation.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Funding: This work was financially supported by the National Science Foundation (DEB-0640463), the Stavros Niarchos fund for Expeditionary Research, a Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Grant, and a CUNY Science Fellowship. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Paulus Simmons
University of California San Diego, San Diego


Contact: Jen Laloup
Public Library of Science

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