Social cognition (SC) comprises an array of cognitive and affective abilities such as social perception, theory of mind, empathy, and social behavior. Previous studies have suggested the existence of deficits in several SC abilities in Parkinson disease (PD), although not unanimously.
The aim of this study is to assess the SC construct and to explore its relationship with cognitive state in PD patients.
We compare 19 PD patients with cognitive decline, 27 cognitively preserved PD patients, and 29 healthy control (HC) individuals in social perception (static and dynamic emotional facial recognition), theory of mind, empathy, and social behavior tasks. We also assess processing speed, executive functions, memory, language, and visuospatial ability.
PD patients with cognitive decline perform worse than the other groups in both facial expression recognition tasks and theory of mind. Cognitively preserved PD patients only score worse than HCs in the static facial expression recognition task. We find several significant correlations between each of the SC deficits and diverse cognitive processes.
The results indicate that some components of SC are impaired in PD patients. These problems seem to be related to a global cognitive decline rather than to specific deficits. Considering the importance of these abilities for social interaction, we suggest that SC be included in the assessment protocols in PD.