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Published November 1999 | Published
Journal Article Open

Preferences for Visual Stimuli Following Amygdala Damage


Bilateral damage to the human amygdala impairs retrieval of emotional and social information from faces. An important unanswered question concerns the specificity of the impairment for faces. To address this question, we examined preferences for a broad class of visual stimuli in two subjects with complete bilateral amygdala damage, both of whom were impaired in judgments of faces. Relative to controls, the subjects showed a positive bias for simple nonsense figures, color patterns, three-dimensional-looking objects and landscapes. The impairment was most pronounced in regard to those stimuli that are normally liked the least. The human amygdala thus appears to play a general role in guiding preferences for visual stimuli that are normally judged to be aversive.

Additional Information

© 1999 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We thank Antonio R. Damasio for helpful comments on the manuscript, J. Suhr for technical assistance in testing subjects, and D. Krutzfeldt for help with scheduling subjects. This study was supported in part by an NIH FIRST Award and an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship to R.A. and by a grant from the National Institute for Neurological Diseases and Stroke to Antonio R. Damasio.

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