Bilateral damage to the human amygdala impairs retrieval of emotional and social information from faces. An important unanswered question concerns the specificity of the impairment for faces. To address this question, we examined preferences for a broad class of visual stimuli in two subjects with complete bilateral amygdala damage, both of whom were impaired in judgments of faces. Relative to controls, the subjects showed a positive bias for simple nonsense figures, color patterns, three-dimensional-looking objects and landscapes. The impairment was most pronounced in regard to those stimuli that are normally liked the least. The human amygdala thus appears to play a general role in guiding preferences for visual stimuli that are normally judged to be aversive.

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