Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 452–463 | Cite as

Ambiguous emotion recognition in temporal lobe epilepsy: The role of expression intensity

  • Anna SeddaEmail author
  • Davide Rivolta
  • Pina Scarpa
  • Michael Burt
  • Elisa Frigerio
  • Gabriele Zanardi
  • Ada Piazzini
  • Katherine Turner
  • Maria Paola Canevini
  • Stefano Francione
  • Giorgio Lo Russo
  • Gabriella Bottini


The lateralization of emotion processing is currently debated and may be further explored by examining facial expression recognition (FER) impairments in temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). Furthermore, there is also debate in the literature whether FER deficits in individuals with TLE are more pronounced in the right than in the left hemisphere. Individuals with TLE were tested with an FER task designed to be more sensitive than those classically used to shed light on this issue. A total of 25 right- and 32 left-TLE patients, candidates for surgery, along with controls, underwent an FER task composed of stimuli shown not only at full-blown intensities (100 %), but also morphed to lower-intensity display levels (35 %, 50 %, and 75 %). The results showed that, as compared to controls, right-TLE patients showed deficits in the recognition of all emotional categories. Furthermore, when considering valence, right-TLE patients were impaired only in negative emotion recognition, but no deficits for positive emotions were highlighted in left-TLE patients. Finally, only the right-TLE patients’ impairment was found to be related to the age of epilepsy onset. Our work demonstrates that the FER deficits in TLE span multiple emotional categories and show manifestations dependent on the laterality of the epileptic focus. Taken together, our findings provide the strongest evidence for the right-hemisphere model, but they also partially support the valence model. We suggest that current models are not exhaustive at explaining emotional-processing cerebral control, and further that multistep models should be developed.


Emotional dominance Facial expressions Facial emotion recognition Temporal lobe epilepsy Expression intensity Emotional lateralization 


Author note

The first and second authors contributed equally to this work. A.S. was partially supported by QUALIA, the Associazione per la Ricerca Teorica e Applicata in Scienze Cognitive. None of the authors has any conflict of interest to disclose. We confirm that we have read the journal’s position on issues involved in ethical publication, and affirm that this report is consistent with those guidelines.

Supplementary material

13415_2013_153_MOESM1_ESM.doc (77 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 77 kb)


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Sedda
    • 3
    • 8
    Email author
  • Davide Rivolta
    • 2
    • 7
    • 9
    • 10
  • Pina Scarpa
    • 3
  • Michael Burt
    • 4
  • Elisa Frigerio
    • 1
  • Gabriele Zanardi
    • 1
  • Ada Piazzini
    • 5
  • Katherine Turner
    • 5
  • Maria Paola Canevini
    • 5
  • Stefano Francione
    • 6
  • Giorgio Lo Russo
    • 6
  • Gabriella Bottini
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Brain and Behavioural SciencesUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  2. 2.Department of NeurophysiologyMax Planck Institute for Brain ResearchFrankfurt am MainGermany
  3. 3.Cognitive Neuropsychology CentreA.O. Niguarda Cà GrandaMilanItaly
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Durham Science LaboratoriesDurhamUK
  5. 5.Epilepsy Centre, Neurology II, San Paolo HospitalUniversity of MilanMilanItaly
  6. 6.Epilepsy Surgery Centre “C. Munari”A.O. Niguarda Cà GrandaMilanItaly
  7. 7.Macquarie Centre for Cognitive ScienceMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  8. 8.Department of Humanistic Studies, Psychology SectionUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  9. 9.Ernst Strüngmann Institute (ESI) for Neuroscience in Cooperation with Max Planck SocietyFrankfurt am MainItaly
  10. 10.Slop, Scuola Lombarda di Psicoterapia Cognitiva Neuropsicologica, RetorbidoPaviaItaly

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