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Brain. 2014 Jun;137(Pt 6):1772-80. doi: 10.1093/brain/awu063. Epub 2014 Mar 31.

Ventromedial prefrontal cortex mediates visual attention during facial emotion recognition.

Author information

1
1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 6001 Research Park Boulevard, Madison, Wisconsin, 53719, USA2 Neuroscience Training Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1300 University Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin, 53706, USA.
2
1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 6001 Research Park Boulevard, Madison, Wisconsin, 53719, USA.
3
1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 6001 Research Park Boulevard, Madison, Wisconsin, 53719, USA2 Neuroscience Training Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1300 University Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin, 53706, USA3 Medical Scientist Training Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 750 Highland Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin, 53705, USA.
4
4 Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 600 Highland Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin, 53792, USA.
5
1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 6001 Research Park Boulevard, Madison, Wisconsin, 53719, USA mrkoenigs@wisc.edu.

Abstract

The ventromedial prefrontal cortex is known to play a crucial role in regulating human social and emotional behaviour, yet the precise mechanisms by which it subserves this broad function remain unclear. Whereas previous neuropsychological studies have largely focused on the role of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex in higher-order deliberative processes related to valuation and decision-making, here we test whether ventromedial prefrontal cortex may also be critical for more basic aspects of orienting attention to socially and emotionally meaningful stimuli. Using eye tracking during a test of facial emotion recognition in a sample of lesion patients, we show that bilateral ventromedial prefrontal cortex damage impairs visual attention to the eye regions of faces, particularly for fearful faces. This finding demonstrates a heretofore unrecognized function of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex-the basic attentional process of controlling eye movements to faces expressing emotion.

KEYWORDS:

attention; emotion; eye tracking; lesion studies; prefrontal cortex; social cognition

PMID:
24691392
PMCID:
PMC4032099
DOI:
10.1093/brain/awu063
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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