Emotional attention in acquired prosopagnosia


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Abstract

The present study investigated whether emotionally expressive faces guide attention and modulate fMRI activity in fusiform gyrus in acquired prosopagnosia. Patient PS, a pure case of acquired prosopagnosia with intact right middle fusiform gyrus, performed two behavioral experiments and a functional imaging experiment to address these questions. In a visual search task involving face stimuli, PS was faster to select the target face when it was expressing fear or happiness as compared to when it was emotionally neutral. In a change detection task, PS detected significantly more changes when the changed face was fearful as compared to when it was neutral. Finally, an fMRI experiment showed enhanced activation to emotionally expressive faces and bodies in right fusiform gyrus. In addition, PS showed normal body-selective activation in right fusiform gyrus, partially overlapping the fusiform face area. Together these behavioral and neuroimaging results show that attention was preferentially allocated to emotional faces in patient PS, as observed in healthy subjects. We conclude that systems involved in the emotional guidance of attention by facial expression can function normally in acquired prosopagnosia, and can thus be dissociated from systems involved in face identification.

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