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BACKGROUND - Disturbed interpersonal relations and emotional dysregulation are fundamental aspects of borderline personality disorder (BPD). The amygdala plays important roles in modulating vigilance and generating negative emotional states and is often abnormally reactive in disorders of mood and emotion. The aim of this study was to assess amygdala reactivity in BPD patients relative to normal control subjects. We hypothesized that amygdala hyperreactivity contributes to hypervigilance, emotional dysregulation, and disturbed interpersonal relations in BPD.
METHODS - Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we examined neural responses to 20-sec blocks of neutral, happy, sad, and fearful facial expression (or a fixation point) in 15 BPD and 15 normal control subjects. The DSM IV-diagnosed BPD patients and the normal control subjects were assessed by a clinical research team in a medical school psychiatry department.
RESULTS - Borderline patients showed significantly greater left amygdala activation to the facial expressions of emotion (vs. a fixation point) compared with normal control subjects. Post-scan debriefing revealed that some borderline patients had difficulty disambiguating neutral faces or found them threatening.
CONCLUSIONS - Pictures of human emotional expressions elicit robust differences in amygdala activation levels in borderline patients, compared with normal control subjects, and can be used as probes to study the neuropathophysiologic basis of borderline personality disorder.
Schizophrenia patients have demonstrated deficits in affect recognition. Whether this deficit is part of a general difficulty in face perception or a specific problem in affect recognition is debatable. However, there is little research investigating the functional consequences of difficulties in identifying emotion in schizophrenia patients. We tested 20 chronic, medicated schizophrenia patients and 27 normal control participants on a battery of face recognition and affect recognition tasks. A subset of 14 patients was rated on the Social Dysfunction Index. Results demonstrated that schizophrenia patients were less accurate than normal control participants on face recognition, facial affect recognition and vocal affect recognition tasks, but among schizophrenia patients, only affect recognition performance was related to social functioning. These results suggest that schizophrenia patients have general face processing deficits, but affect recognition deficits may lead to more problems in social behavior.
We identified human brain regions involved in the perception of sad, frightened, happy, angry, and neutral facial expressions using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Twenty-one healthy right-handed adult volunteers (11 men, 10 women; aged 18-45; mean age 21.6 years) participated in four separate runs, one for each of the four emotions. Participants viewed blocks of emotionally expressive faces alternating with blocks of neutral faces and scrambled images. In comparison with scrambled images, neutral faces activated the fusiform gyri, the right lateral occipital gyrus, the right superior temporal sulcus, the inferior frontal gyri, and the amygdala/entorhinal cortex. In comparisons of emotional and neutral faces, we found that (1) emotional faces elicit increased activation in a subset of cortical regions involved in neutral face processing and in areas not activated by neutral faces; (2) differences in activation as a function of emotion category were most evident in the frontal lobes; (3) men showed a differential neural response depending upon the emotion expressed but women did not.
In the present study, intellectually precocious and average ability youths performed a dichotic listening task (Experiment 1) and a free-vision chimeric face task (Experiment 2). Patterns of hemispheric lateralization and the relative involvement of the left and right hemispheres during cognitive processing were assessed. In Experiment 1, the average ability youths demonstrated a right ear/left hemisphere (re/LH) superiority for identification of CV syllables, while the gifted subjects failed to show any ear/hemisphere advantage. In Experiment 2, members of both groups tended to judge the leftside smile/rightside neutral half-faces as "happier", a pattern indicative of enhanced right hemisphere (RH) arousal. Notably, the degree of RH involvement was significantly greater in the gifted as compared to average ability youths. Moreover, laterality scores of the precocious on the chimeric face task correlated with their performance on the College Board Scholastic Aptitude test (SAT), i.e. the greater the leftward bias, the higher the SAT score. These findings, taken in composite, suggest that a high level of RH involvement during cognitive processing may be related to intellectual precocity.