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Neurology. 2003 Feb 11;60(3):426-31.

Impaired facial emotion recognition in early-onset right mesial temporal lobe epilepsy.

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  • 1Division of Neurology, Department of Neurosciences, Bellaria Hospital, University of Bologna, Italy.



Anteromedial temporal lobe regions, particularly the amygdala, participate in the recognition of emotions from facial expressions. The authors studied the ability of facial emotion recognition (ER) in subjects with symptomatic epilepsy, evaluating whether mesial temporal lobe damage is related to an impairment in the recognition of specific emotions and whether the onset of seizures in a critical period of life could prevent the development of ER.


Groups included patients with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) with MRI evidence of mesial temporal sclerosis (MTS) (n = 33); patients with TLE with MRI evidence of temporal lobe lesions other than MTS (n = 30); and patients with extratemporal epilepsy (n = 33). Healthy volunteers (n = 50) served as controls. ER was tested by matching a facial expression with the name of one of the following basic emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, and anger. A face-matching task was used to control visuoperceptual abilities with face stimuli.


No subject showed deficits in the face-matching task. ER was impaired in patients with right MTS, especially for fearful faces. Patients presenting left MTS, right or left temporal lobe lesions other than MTS, or extratemporal seizure foci showed ER performances similar to controls. In all subjects with right TLE, the degree of emotion recognition impairment was related to age at first seizure (febrile or afebrile) and age at epilepsy onset.


Early-onset right-sided mesial temporal lobe epilepsy is the key substrate determining a severe deficit in recognizing emotional facial expressions, especially fear.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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