Impaired facial emotion recognition in patients with ventromedial prefrontal hypoperfusion

Marie Vandekerckhove, Maarten Plessers, Arno Van Mieghem, Kurt Beeckmans, Frederik Van Acker, Reinoud Maex, Peter Marien, H. Markowitsch, Frank Van Overwalle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)


Empathic interaction involves the capacity to recognize emotions experienced 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 aims to investigate the capacity to recognize nonverbal emotional facial expressions in a group of patients with: 1) perfusion deficits in the vmPFC (vmPFC group; N = 13), 2) hypoperfusions sparing the vmPFC (non-vmPFC group; N = 12), and in 3) 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 seven 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)605-612
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • emotion
  • facial emotion recognition
  • ventromedial prefrontal hypoperfusion

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