Conscious and unconscious processing of fear after right amygdala damage: a single case ERP-study.


In this study, we describe a 58-year-old male patient (FZ) with a right-amygdala lesion after temporal lobe infarction. FZ is unable to recognize fearful facial expressions. Instead, he consistently misinterprets expressions of fear for expressions of surprise. Employing EEG/ERP measures, we investigated whether presentation of fearful and surprised facial expressions would lead to different response patterns. We also measured ERPs to aversively conditioned and unconditioned fearful faces. We compared ERPs elicited by supraliminally and subliminally presented conditioned fearful faces (CS+), unconditioned fearful faces (CS-) and surprised faces. Despite FZ's inability to recognize fearful facial expressions in emotion recognition tasks, ERP components showed different response patterns to pictures of surprised and fearful facial expressions, indicating that covert or implicit recognition of fear is still intact. Differences between ERPs to CS+ and CS- were only found when these stimuli were presented subliminally. This indicates that intact right amygdala function is not necessary for aversive conditioning. Previous studies have stressed the importance of the right amygdala for discriminating facial emotional expressions and for classical conditioning. Our study suggests that the right amygdala is necessary for explicit recognition of fear, while implicit recognition of fear and classical conditioning may still occur following lesion of the right amygdala.

DOI: 10.1080/13554794.2010.504730

Cite this paper

@article{Heutink2011ConsciousAU, title={Conscious and unconscious processing of fear after right amygdala damage: a single case ERP-study.}, author={Joost Heutink and Wiebo H. Brouwer and Bauke M. de Jong and Anke Bouma}, journal={Neurocase}, year={2011}, volume={17 4}, pages={297-312} }