Differential impact of right and left hemisphere lesions on facial emotion and object imagery

D. Bowers, L. X. Blonder, T. Feinberg, K. M. Heilman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Thirty-six patients with unilateral hemispheric lesions of the right hemisphere (RHD), left hemisphere (LHD), or no neurologic disease were evaluated on two tasks of visual imagery: one involved imagery for facial emotions and the other involved imagery for common objects. As a group, the RHD patients were more impaired on the emotional than the object imagery task, whereas the LHD patients showed the opposite pattern. Individual case analyses suggested that the RHD group consisted of different behavioural subtypes. One patient with a right inferior occipito-temporal lesion had a facial emotion imagery generation defect, other RHD patients displayed a facial affect agnosia (being impaired on emotional imagery and emotional perceptual tasks), while other RHD patients had perceptual defects with sparing of imagery performance. A final RHD group was globally impaired across all imagery and perceptual tasks. These findings support the hypothesis that the right hemisphere may contain a 'lexicon' of facial emotions. Furthermore, these findings argue against current views that it is exclusively the left or right hemisphere that mediates visual imagery. Rather, hemispheric asymmetries in imagery performance are or some extent material-representation specific and may arise when (a) the representations of objects/events to be imaged are differentially represented in the hemispheres, and/or (b) when the operations acting on these imaged events are differentially lateralized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2593-2609
Number of pages17
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1991

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported in part by Grant MH40214 from the National Institutes of Mental Health, the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, Division of Aging and Adult Services of the State of Florida, and by the Medical Research Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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