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Graham, Reiko; Devinsky, Orrin; Labar, Kevin S
"Quantifying deficits in the perception of fear and anger in morphed facial expressions after bilateral amygdala damage"
Neuropsychologia 2007 Jan 7; 45(1):42-54
Amygdala damage has been associated with impairments in perceiving facial expressions of fear. However, deficits in perceiving other emotions, such as anger, and deficits in perceiving emotion blends have not been definitively established. One possibility is that methods used to index expression perception are susceptible to heuristic use, which may obscure impairments. To examine this, we adapted a task used to examine categorical perception of morphed facial expressions [Etcoff, N. L., & Magee, J. J. (1992). Categorical perception of facial expressions. Cognition, 44(3), 227-240]. In one version of the task, expressions were categorized with unlimited time constraints. In the other, expressions were presented with limited exposure durations to tap more automatic aspects of processing. Three morph progressions were employed: neutral to anger, neutral to fear, and fear to anger. Both tasks were administered to a participant with bilateral amygdala damage (S.P.), age- and education-matched controls, and young controls. The second task was also administered to unilateral temporal lobectomy patients. In the first version, S.P. showed impairments relative to normal controls on the neutral-to-anger and fear-to-anger morphs, but not on the neutral-to-fear morph. However, reaction times suggested that speed-accuracy tradeoffs could account for results. In the second version, S.P. showed impairments on all morph types relative to all other subject groups. A third experiment showed that this deficit did not extend to the perception of morphed identities. These results imply that when heuristics use is discouraged on tasks utilizing subtle emotion transitions, deficits in the perception of anger and anger/fear blends, as well as fear, are evident with bilateral amygdala damage

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