Chapter 8: Fear, Anxiety, and Stress

Amygdala and Fear: S.M. Case Study

To understand the role of the amygdala in emotions, researchers have conducted studies on individuals diagnosed with Urbach-Weithe disease. S.M. is a famous case study that has provided some information about the amygdala. S.M. was diagnosed with Urbach-Weithe disease and thus her brain damage is confined to the amygdala. In the upcoming section, we will discuss some very interesting findings related to S.M.’s emotional experiences. (You can also read more about her case on Wikipedia and in Discover Magazine). But, first I would like to clarify three types of amygdala damage that may occur:

  1. Bilateral Amygdala Damage: damage to both the amygdalae
  2. Unilateral Left Amygdala Damage: Damage to the left amygdala, but not the right
  3. Unilateral Right Amygdala Damage: Damage to the right amygdala, but not the left

Keep in mind that S.M. has bilateral amygdala damage and her performance on certain tasks will be compared to participants with unilateral damage patients. In addition, other groups of participants include 1) participants with brain damage outside the amygdala and 2) control participants without any brain damage.


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