The processing of emotional facial expression is a major part of social communication and understanding. In addition to explicit processing, facial expressions are also processed rapidly and automatically in the absence of explicit awareness. We investigated 12 healthy subjects by presenting them with an implicit and explicit emotional paradigm. The subjects reacted significantly faster in implicit than in explicit trials but did not differ in their error ratio. For the implicit condition increased signals were observed in particular in the thalami, the hippocampi, the frontal inferior gyri and the right middle temporal region. The analysis of the explicit condition showed increased blood-oxygen-level-dependent signals especially in the caudate nucleus, the cingulum and the right prefrontal cortex. The direct comparison of these 2 different processes revealed increased activity for explicit trials in the inferior, superior and middle frontal gyri, the middle cingulum and left parietal regions. Additional signal increases were detected in occipital regions, the cerebellum, and the right angular and lingual gyrus. Our data partially confirm the hypothesis of different neural substrates for the processing of implicit and explicit emotional stimuli. Copyright (c) 2007 S. Karger AG, Basel.