JOURNAL ARTICLE

The impairment of emotion recognition in Huntington's disease extends to positive emotions

Laura Robotham, Disa A Sauter, Anne-Catherine Bachoud-Lévi, Iris Trinkler
Cortex; a Journal Devoted to the Study of the Nervous System and Behavior 2011, 47 (7): 880-4
21429482
Patients with Huntington's Disease (HD) are impaired in the recognition of emotional signals. However, the nature and extent of the impairment is controversial: it has variously been argued to disproportionately affect disgust (e.g., Sprengelmeyer et al., 1996), to be general for negative emotions (Snowden et al., 2008), or to be a consequence of item difficulty (Milders et al., 2003). Yet no study to date has included more than one positive stimulus category in emotion recognition tasks, and most studies have focused on the recognition of emotions from facial stimuli. In this study, we test the hypothesis that patients with HD may be impaired in their recognition of positive as well as negative emotional signals, by examining the recognition of a range of positive emotions from vocal cues. We present a study of 14 Huntington's patients and 15 controls performing a forced-choice task with a previously validated set of negative and positive non-verbal emotional vocalizations (Sauter and Scott, 2007). Although HD patients performed above chance for each emotion, they were found to be impaired in both positive and negative emotions, including pleasure, fear and anger. These findings complement previous work by demonstrating that impairments in emotion recognition in HD extend to positive and negative emotions, which may imply a general deficit.

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