Spontaneous facial expression of emotions in brain-damaged patients

A. Mammucari, C. Caltagirone, P. Ekman, W. Friesen, G. Gainotti, L. Pizzamiglio, P. Zoccolotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spontaneous facial expression of emotion was studied in two groups of right (N=23) and left (N=39) brain-damaged patients and in a control group of normal subjects (N=28). To elicit emotions four short movies, constructed to produce positive, negative or neutral emotional responses, were used. The method used to assess the facial expression or emotions was the Facial Action Coding System. Brain-damaged patients showed less facial responses to emotional stimuli than normal controls, but no difference was observed between subjects with right and left-sided lesions either with global or disaggregated data analyses, inconsistent with the hypothesis of a specialization of the right hemisphere for facial emotional expressions. An unexpected difference was observed in response to the unpleasant movie. Both normal controls and left brain-damaged patients often averted their gaze from the screen when unpleasant material was displayed, whereas right brain-damaged patients rarely showed gaze aversion. This finding suggests that the degree of emotional involvement or manner of coping with stressful input may be reduced as a result of right brain damage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-533
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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