Specific impairments in the recognition of emotional facial expressions in Parkinson's disease

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Studies investigating the ability to recognize emotional facial expressions in non-demented individuals with Parkinson's disease (PD) have yielded equivocal findings. A possible reason for this variability may lie in the confounding of emotion recognition with cognitive task requirements, a confound arising from the lack of a control condition using non-emotional stimuli. The present study examined emotional facial expression recognition abilities in 20 non-demented patients with PD and 23 control participants relative to their performance on a non-emotional landscape categorization test with comparable task requirements. We found that PD participants were normal on the control task but exhibited selective impairments in the recognition of facial emotion, specifically for anger (driven by those with right hemisphere pathology) and surprise (driven by those with left hemisphere pathology), even when controlling for depression level. Male but not female PD participants further displayed specific deficits in the recognition of fearful expressions. We suggest that the neural substrates that may subserve these impairments include the ventral striatum, amygdala, and prefrontal cortices. Finally, we observed that in PD participants, deficiencies in facial emotion recognition correlated with higher levels of interpersonal distress, which calls attention to the significant psychosocial impact that facial emotion recognition impairments may have on individuals with PD.

Original Citation

Clark U.S., Neargarder S., Cronin-Golomb A. (2008). Specific impairments in the recognition of emotional facial expressions in Parkinson's disease. Neuropsychologia, 46(9), 2300-2309. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2008.03.014