Startle reflex and emotion modulation impairment after a right amygdala lesion

Alessandro Angrilli, Alessandra Mauri, Daniela Palomba, Herta Flor, Niels Birbaumer, Giuseppe Sartori, Francesco Di Paola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the present study startle responses during resting states as well as during the presentation of a set of emotive slides were recorded from a 32-year-old male patient with a rare localized lesion of the right amygdala. The startle reflex is a response modulated by affective states: it has been reliably used in the literature to measure the aversiveness of emotive stimuli. The animal literature has shown that the circuit of this reflex is directly unfenced by amygdala projections. The startle response of the patient were compared with those of eight age-matched normal subjects. The patient's startle amplitudes showed an overall impaired response and an inhibited reflex contralateral to the lesion. In addition, he failed to show the typical startle potentiation induced by an aversive emotive background. The data confirm, in the human, previous results from the literature in other species on amygdala involvement in startle and emotive responses. Futhermore, the observation of the importance of the right amygdala in the modulation of emotion is consistent with the hypothesis of right hemisphere specialization for adverse emotions. The results are discussed in the context of the literature on human amygdala lesions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1991-2000
Number of pages10
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1996


  • Amygdala
  • Emotion
  • Right hemisphere
  • Startle reflex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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