Hemispheric perception of emotional valence from facial expressions

Neuropsychology. 2001 Oct;15(4):516-24.


The authors previously reported that normal subjects are better at discriminating happy from neutral faces when the happy face is located to the viewer's right of the neutral face; conversely, discrimination of sad from neutral faces is better when the sad face is shown to the left, supporting a role for the left hemisphere in processing positive valence and for the right hemisphere in processing negative valence. Here, the authors extend this same task to subjects with unilateral cerebral damage (31 right, 28 left). Subjects with right damage performed worse when discriminating sad faces shown on the left, consistent with the prior findings. However, subjects with either left or right damage actually performed superior to normal controls when discriminating happy faces shown on the left. The authors suggest that perception of negative valence relies preferentially on the right hemisphere, whereas perception of positive valence relies on both left and right hemispheres.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attention* / physiology
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / psychology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / psychology
  • Cerebral Infarction / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Infarction / psychology
  • Dominance, Cerebral* / physiology
  • Emotions* / physiology
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual* / physiology