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Preferential attention to animals and people is independent of the amygdala

Wang, Shuo and Tsuchiya, Naotsugu and New, Joshua and Hurlemann, Rene and Adolphs, Ralph (2015) Preferential attention to animals and people is independent of the amygdala. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 10 (3). pp. 371-380. ISSN 1749-5016. PMCID PMC4350484.

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The amygdala is thought to play a critical role in detecting salient stimuli. Several studies have taken ecological approaches to investigating such saliency, and argue for domain-specific effects for processing certain natural stimulus categories, in particular faces and animals. Linking this to the amygdala, neurons in the human amygdala have been found to respond strongly to faces, and also to animals. Yet the amygdala’s necessary role for such category-specific effects at the behavioral level remains untested. Here we tested four rare patients with bilateral amygdala lesions on an established change-detection protocol. Consistent with prior published studies, healthy controls showed reliably faster and more accurate detection of people and animals, as compared to artifacts and plants. But so did all four amygdala patients: there were no differences in phenomenal change blindness, in behavioral reaction time to detect changes, or in eye-tracking measures. The findings provide decisive evidence against a critical participation of the amygdala in rapid, initial processing of attention to animate stimuli, suggesting that the necessary neural substrates for this phenomenon arise either in other subcortical structures (such as the pulvinar) or within cortex itself.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Wang, Shuo0000-0003-2562-0225
Tsuchiya, Naotsugu0000-0003-4216-8701
Adolphs, Ralph0000-0002-8053-9692
Additional Information:© 2014 The Author. Published by Oxford University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (, which permits non-commercial reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. First published online: May 1, 2014. This research was supported by grants from NIMH and the Simons Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. We thank Claudia Wilimzig for providing some of the stimuli, Ty Basinger for creating some of the stimuli, Peter Foley for help with the statistical analysis, and Mike Tyszka for providing the anatomical scans of the lesion patients. The authors declare no competing financial interests. Author Contributions: S.W, N.T., J.N. and R.A. designed experiments. R.H. contributed two patients with amygdala lesions. S.W. and N.T. performed experiments and analyzed data. S.W. and R.A. wrote the paper. All authors discussed the results and made comments on the paper.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)UNSPECIFIED
Simons FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Change Detection, Amygdala, Attention, Eye-tracking
Issue or Number:3
PubMed Central ID:PMC4350484
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20140513-075129812
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:45703
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:13 May 2014 21:28
Last Modified:09 Mar 2020 13:19

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