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Intensity-dependent facial emotion recognition and cognitive functions in Parkinson’s disease

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 July 2010

I.R.C.C.S. Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy
Department of Neurological Sciences, University “Sapienza”, Rome, Italy Movement Disorder Unit, Sant’Andrea Hospital, Rome, Italy
I.R.C.C.S. Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy
I.R.C.C.S. Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy
Department of Neuroscience, University “Tor Vergata”, Rome, Italy
Department of Neuroscience, University “Tor Vergata”, Rome, Italy
Department of Neuroscience, University “Tor Vergata”, Rome, Italy
Department of Neurological Sciences, University “Sapienza”, Rome, Italy Movement Disorder Unit, Sant’Andrea Hospital, Rome, Italy
I.R.C.C.S. Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy Department of Neuroscience, University “Tor Vergata”, Rome, Italy
I.R.C.C.S. Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy
*Correspondence and reprint requests to: Gianfranco Spalletta, M.D., Ph.D., Laboratory of Clinical and Behavioral Neurology, I.R.C.C.S. Santa Lucia Foundation, Via Ardeatina, 306 – 00179 Rome, Italy. E-mail


Patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) frequently display non-motor symptoms. In this study, we investigated intensity-dependent facial emotion recognition in patients with PD and healthy controls (HC), matched for age, gender, and education, and its relationship to individual cognitive domains. Seventy patients with PD and 70 HC were submitted to a clinical, neuropsychological, and psychopathological evaluation. Facial emotion recognition performance was assessed using the Penn Emotion Recognition Test (PERT). The patients with PD recognized fewer low- and high-intensity facial expressions of disgust than HC. This effect was selective, because their global ability to recognize emotions was intact. Both patients with PD and HC recognized high-intensity better than low-intensity emotions, except for disgust, which was recognized better at low intensity. In the patients with PD, overall facial emotion recognition and selective disgust recognition performances were related to deficits in many neuropsychological domains (verbal and visuo-spatial memory, attention, praxis, and verbal fluency). The ability to recognize emotions is a complex cognitive process requiring the integrity of several functions. Therefore, it is likely that structural or functional derangement of the discrete neural pathways involved in these cognitive functions in patients with PD makes it difficult for them to recognize emotions expressed by others. (JINS, 2010, 16, 867–876.)

Research Articles
Copyright © The International Neuropsychological Society 2010

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