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Neuropsychologia. 2007 Sep 20;45(12):2772-82. Epub 2007 May 6.

Spared ability to recognise fear from static and moving whole-body cues following bilateral amygdala damage.

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Department of Psychology, Durham University, Science Laboratories, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK.


Bilateral amygdala lesions impair the ability to identify certain emotions, especially fear, from facial expressions, and neuroimaging studies have demonstrated differential amygdala activation as a function of the emotional expression of faces, even under conditions of subliminal presentation, and again especially for fear. Yet the amygdala's role in processing emotion from other classes of stimuli remains poorly understood. On the basis of its known connectivity as well as prior studies in humans and animals, we hypothesised that the amygdala would be important also for the recognition of fear from body expressions. To test this hypothesis, we assessed a patient (S.M.) with complete bilateral amygdala lesions who is known to be severely impaired at recognising fear from faces. S.M. completed a battery of tasks involving forced-choice labelling and rating of the emotions in two sets of dynamic body movement stimuli, as well as in a set of static body postures. Unexpectedly, S.M.'s performance was completely normal. We replicated the finding in a second rare subject with bilateral lesions entirely confined to the amygdala. Compared to healthy comparison subjects, neither of the amygdala lesion subjects was impaired in identifying fear from any of these displays. Thus, whatever the role of the amygdala in processing whole-body fear cues, it is apparently not necessary for the normal recognition of fear from either static or dynamic body expressions.

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