Only hundreds of milliseconds after an incoming stimulus is perceived, we make an evaluation of whether it is good or bad. This evaluation seems to occur automatically and can significantly influence behavior. According to several functional imaging studies, the amygdala, which is localized in the temporal lobes of the brain, is an important structure for the automatic processing of affective stimuli. To investigate how critical a role the amygdala plays in this process, we had 20 participants with unilateral resection of the temporal lobe and 20 controls perform an affective priming task. Both controls and patients demonstrated shorter response latencies on trials where prime and target had the same valence than on trials where prime and target had the opposite valence. This finding is generally known as the affective priming effect and is considered to reflect automatic stimulus evaluation. More specifically, it is assumed that the valence of the prime stimulus is activated automatically and exerts an influence on the speed by which the target stimulus is evaluated. Given that the affective priming effect is equally large in both groups, our results suggest that the automatic processing of stimulus valence is intact in participants who sustained unilateral resection of the temporal lobe.
Afdeling Experimentele neurologie. Afdeling Psychiatrie. Centrum voor Leerpsychologie en experimentele psychopathologie.