Fear-enhanced visual search persists after amygdala lesions

Neuropsychologia. 2010 Oct;48(12):3430-5. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.07.009. Epub 2010 Jul 14.


Previous research has indicated that the amygdala is a critical neural substrate of the emotional modulation of attention. However, a recent case study suggests that the amygdala may not be essential for all types of emotion-attention interactions. In order to test this hypothesis, we assessed the visual-search performance of patients with unilateral amygdala lesions, matched controls, and medication-matched epilepsy patients with intact amygdalae. All participants completed a visual-search task consisting of trials in which (1) an emotional target was embedded among neutral distractors, (2) a neutral target was embedded among emotional distractors, or (3) a neutral target was embedded among neutral distractors. All participant groups, including those with amygdala lesions, detected emotional targets more efficiently than neutral targets. These data indicate that the amygdala is not necessary for emotion-guided visual search and suggest that other mechanisms beyond the amygdala help guide attention toward threatening stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / pathology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Injuries / pathology
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult