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Face processing impairments after amygdalotomy

Andrew W. Young, John P. Aggleton, Deborah J. Hellawell, Michael Johnson, Paul Broks, J. Richard Hanley
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/118.1.15 15-24 First published online: 1 February 1995


Summary We report an investigation of face processing impairments in D.R., a 51-year-old woman with a partial bilateral amygdalotomy. D.R. was able to recognize pre-operatively familiar faces, but she showed generalized problems of name retrieval and a more circumscribed deficit affecting the recognition of faces learnt post-operatively. In contrast to her poor memory for new faces, D.R.'s ability to match simultaneously presented photographs of unfamiliar faces was unimpaired. However, D.R. also experienced deficits in expression processing which compromised the recognition of emotion from people's faces; she was poor both at matching and at identifying photographs of emotional facial expressions. In addition, her interpretation of eye gaze direction was defective, showing a more general problem in reading social signals from the face. The presence of impairments affecting the learning of new faces and the comprehension of gaze direction and facial expressions of emotion is consistent with the hypothesis of a role for the amygdala in learning and social behaviour.

  • amygdala
  • face recognition
  • facial expression
  • gaze direction

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