Klüver-Bucy syndrome

BRAIN AREA: Temporal Lobe – Limbic System – Amygdala – Emotions

See Image 5

Through research on rhesus monkeys in the 1930s, psychologist Heinrich Klüver and neurosurgeon Paul Bucy determined the source and neuropathology of Klüver-Bucy syndrome. They demonstrated that damage to the amygdalae (see Image 5) causes not only decreased fear and aggression, but also poor visual recognition and increased interest in sex. Monkeys with Klüver-Bucy syndrome showed little regard for their own safety and were observed to approach and investigate a snake that had previously attacked them.

Humans can acquire this syndrome or similar symptoms from illnesses such as encephalitis (meningoencephalitis, herpes simplex encephalitis), vascular constriction (ischemia, anoxia) and neurodegenerative disease (Pick's disease, Alzheimer's disease) or from accidents, stroke or tumours.

Humans with Klüver-Bucy syndrome often exhibit poor visual recognition, increased oral tendencies, hypersexuality and flattened emotions. While surgery causing bilateral destruction of the amygdalae in humans results in a 'taming effect', medication is usually preferred for treatment of human aggression.

References & further reading

Kluver, H., & Bucy, P. C. (1939). Preliminary analysis of functions of the temporal lobes in monkeys. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, 42(6), 979–1000. https://doi.org/10.1001/archneurpsyc.1939.02270240017001

Salloway, S., Malloy, P., Cummings, J. (1997). The neuropsychiatry of limbic and subcortical disorders. American Psychiatric Press.

Tancredi, L. (2005). Hardwired behavior: What neuroscience reveals about morality. Cambridge University Press.