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Personal space regulation by the human amygdala


The amygdala plays key roles in emotion and social cognition, but how this translates to face-to-face interactions involving real people remains unknown. We found that an individual with complete amygdala lesions lacked any sense of personal space. Furthermore, healthy individuals showed amygdala activation upon close personal proximity. The amygdala may be required to trigger the strong emotional reactions normally following personal space violations, thus regulating interpersonal distance in humans.

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Figure 1: Lesion study: mean preferred distances from the experimenter.
Figure 2: fMRI study: activation of the amygdala by close (relative to far) interpersonal distance.

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We thank C. Holcomb for behavioral data collection, R. Nair and V. Chib for help with the fMRI study, and M. Spezio for discussions. Supported by US National Institute of Mental Health and the Simons Foundation (R.A.), the Della Martin Foundation (D.P.K.) and the Tamagawa University global Centers of Excellence program of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Technology.

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D.P.K. and R.A. designed the experiment and wrote the paper; D.P.K. executed the studies; D.P.K., J.G. and J.M.T. analyzed the data.

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Correspondence to Daniel P Kennedy.

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Kennedy, D., Gläscher, J., Tyszka, J. et al. Personal space regulation by the human amygdala. Nat Neurosci 12, 1226–1227 (2009).

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