Impaired recognition of emotion in facial expressions following bilateral damage to the human amygdala

Nature. 1994 Dec 15;372(6507):669-72. doi: 10.1038/372669a0.


Studies in animals have shown that the amygdala receives highly processed visual input, contains neurons that respond selectively to faces, and that it participates in emotion and social behaviour. Although studies in epileptic patients support its role in emotion, determination of the amygdala's function in humans has been hampered by the rarity of patients with selective amygdala lesions. Here, with the help of one such rare patient, we report findings that suggest the human amygdala may be indispensable to: (1) recognize fear in facial expressions; (2) recognize multiple emotions in a single facial expression; but (3) is not required to recognize personal identity from faces. These results suggest that damage restricted to the amygdala causes very specific recognition impairments, and thus constrains the broad notion that the amygdala is involved in emotion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Amygdala / physiopathology*
  • Brain Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Emotions*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Social Perception
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Visual Perception / physiology