Deficits in emotional processes are often observed by clinicians in anorexia nervosa and may have an impact on social functioning. Recognition of emotion was mostly investigated using visual stimuli as faces of emotional scenes. Only one study (Kucharska-Pietura et al., 2004) demonstrated impairments in emotional prosody using positive and negative valenced stimuli. However, this study did not provide a highlight for the identification of emotional bias (for example, to recognize an intense fear in a friendly voice). The aim of this study is to better understand the recognition of emotional prosody in anorexia nervosa using a wide range of positive, negative and neutral stimuli (Belin et al., 2008).
In order to test emotion recognition biases in emotional prosody, we exposed 15 patients with anorexia nervosa and 15 healthy controls (HCs) to emotional vocal tasks asking them to rate emotional intensity on visual analog scales. In addition, we assessed clinical symptomatology and cognitive functioning for all participants.
We showed that patients with anorexia nervosa provided higher intensity ratings on the non-target scales (e.g., surprise scale for fear stimuli) than HCs for sadness, fear and neutral voices. Furthermore, with the exception of neutral vocal stimuli, they provided the same intensity ratings on the target scales as the HCs.
These findings suggested a bias in the processing of emotional prosody and may impact the social functioning of patients with anorexia nervosa. The bias may result from a sensorial deficit or a high-order cognitive dysfunction and have to be investigated in future studies.
Disclosure of interest
The authors have not supplied their declaration of competing interest.