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Published April 11, 2007 | Published
Journal Article Open

Amygdala Damage Impairs Eye Contact During Conversations with Real People


The role of the human amygdala in real social interactions remains essentially unknown, although studies in nonhuman primates and studies using photographs and video in humans have shown it to be critical for emotional processing and suggest its importance for social cognition. We show here that complete amygdala lesions result in a severe reduction in direct eye contact during conversations with real people, together with an abnormal increase in gaze to the mouth. These novel findings from real social interactions are consistent with an hypothesized role for the amygdala in autism and the approach taken here opens up new directions for quantifying social behavior in humans.

Additional Information

© 2007 Society for Neuroscience. Received Aug. 31, 2006; revised Jan. 14, 2007; accepted Feb. 19, 2007. This work was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Cure Autism Now Foundation, Autism Speaks/National Alliance for Autism Research, and the Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow Program. We thank Nick Annunziata for his expert participation as the actor in our experiments, Lisa Lyons for help with programming the automated face detector, and Sol Simpson for advice and guidance in the analysis of fixation data.

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