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Discriminating emotional faces without primary visual cortices involves the right amygdala



Destruction of the brain's primary visual areas leads to blindness of cortical origin. Here we report on a subject who, after bilateral destruction of his visual cortices and ensuing cortical blindness, could nevertheless correctly guess the type of emotional facial expression being displayed, but could not guess other types of emotional or non-emotional stimuli. Functional magnetic resonance imaging showed activation of the right amygdala during the unconscious processing of emotionally expressive faces.

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We thank F. Bernasconi and E. Monbaron for providing us with the patient's neuropsychological examination, R. Rafal and P. Vuilleumier for helpful comments on the manuscript and J. Intriligator for methodological assistance. This investigation was supported by the Swiss National Foundation for Scientific Research (grants 3100-056782/99, 3151AO-102271/1 and 3200BO-100717/1).

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Correspondence to Alan J Pegna.

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Figure 1: Amygdala response to emotional faces (fear, anger and happiness) compared to neutral faces.