Royal Society Publishing

Reduced autonomic responses to faces in Capgras delusion

Hadyn D. Ellis , Andrew W. Young , Angela H. Quayle , Karel W. De Pauw


People experiencing the Capgras delusion claim that others, usually those quite close emotionally, have been replaced by near–identical impostors. Ellis and Young suggested in 1990 that the Capgras delusion results from damage to a neurological system involved in orienting responses to seen faces based on their personal significance. This hypothesis predicts that people suffering the Capgras delusion will be hyporesponsive to familiar faces. We tested this prediction in five people with Capgras delusion. Comparison data were obtained from five middle–aged members of the general public, and a psychiatric control group of five patients taking similar anti–psychotic medication. Capgras delusion patients did not reveal autonomic discrimination between familiar and unfamiliar faces, but orienting responses to auditory tones were normal in magnitude and rate of initial habituation, showing that the hyporesponsiveness is circumscribed.

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