Impaired facial emotion recognition in patients with ventromedial prefrontal hypoperfusion

Marie Vandekerckhove, Maarten Plessers, Arno Van Mieghem, Kurt Beeckmans, Frederik Van Acker, Reinoud Maex, Hans Markowitsch, Peter Mariën, Frank Van Overwalle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Empathy refers to our ability to recognize and share emotions by another human being. Impairment may underlie many of the emotional deficits commonly associated with a range of neuropsychiatric and neurological conditions. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) has long been implicated in these processes, but the specific contribution of subregions of the PFC remain unclear. Studies regarding the role of subregions of the prefrontal cortex such as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC)-in facial emotion recognition have yielded inconsistent results. The present study aimed to investigate the capacity to recognize nonverbal emotional facial expressions in a group of patients with the following: (a) perfusion deficits in the vmPFC (vmPFC group; N = 13), (b) hypoperfusions sparing the vmPFC (nonvmPFC group; N = 12), and in (c) a control group of healthy volunteers (control group; N = 17). Regions of hypoperfusion were identified by means of Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT). Participants were asked to recognize facial expressions of the 7 basic emotions (happiness, fear, surprise, anger, disgust, sadness, or neutral). Detection of facial expressions of fear, disgust, and surprise was affected after functional disruption of the vmPFC. The present study confirms the role of the vmPFC in recognizing emotional facial expressions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-12
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Early online date28 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014


  • Emotion Expression
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain Diseases
  • Empathy
  • Facial Expression
  • Neuropsychology
  • Neuroimiging
  • Memory Disorders
  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Recognition (Psychology)
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon


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