Neuroethics Publications

Ventromedial Frontal Lobe Plays a Critical Role in Facial Emotion Recognition

Andrea S. Heberlein, University of Pennsylvania; Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Alisa A. Padon, University of Pennsylvania
Seth J. Gillihan, University of Pennsylvania
Martha J. Farah, University of Pennsylvania
Lesley K. Fellows, University of Pennsylvania; McGill University

Document Type Journal Article

Suggested Citation:
Heberlein, A.S. et al. (2008). Ventromedial Frontal Lobe Plays a Critical Role in Facial Emotion Recognition. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. Vol. 20(4). pp. 721-733.

© 2008 MIT Press


The ventromedial prefrontal cortex has been implicated in a variety of emotion processes. However, findings regarding the role of this region specifically in emotion recognition have been mixed. We used a sensitive facial emotion recognition task to compare the emotion recognition performance of 7 subjects with lesions confined to ventromedial prefrontal regions, 8 subjects with lesions elsewhere in prefrontal cortex, and 16 healthy control subjects. We found that emotion recognition was impaired following ventromedial, but not dorsal or lateral, prefrontal damage. This impairment appeared to be quite general, with lower overall ratings or more confusion between all six emotions examined. We also explored the relationship between emotion recognition performance and the ability of the same patients to experience transient happiness and sadness during a laboratory mood induction. We found some support for a relationship between sadness recognition and experience. Taken together, our results indicate that the ventromedial frontal lobe plays a crucial role in facial emotion recognition, and suggest that this deficit may be related to the subjective experience of emotion.


Date Posted: 26 June 2012

This document has been peer reviewed.