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Perception of Biological Motion and Emotion in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Dementia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 June 2012

Julie D. Henry*
School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland
Claire Thompson
School of Psychology, James Cook University, Singapore
Peter G. Rendell
School of Psychology, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Victoria
Louise H. Phillips
School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland
Jessica Carbert
School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales
Perminder Sachdev
Brain and Ageing Research Program, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales Neuropsychiatric Institute, Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales
Henry Brodaty
Brain and Ageing Research Program, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales Dementia Collaborative Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Julie D. Henry, School of Psychology, University of Queensland, St Lucia QLD 4072 Australia. E-mail:


Participants diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), dementia and controls completed measures that required decoding emotions from point-light displays of bodily motion, and static images of facial affect. Both of these measures tap social cognitive processes that are considered critical for social competency. Consistent with prior literature, both clinical groups were impaired on the static measure of facial affect recognition. The dementia (but not the MCI) group additionally showed difficulties interpreting biological motion cues. However, this did not reflect a specific deficit in decoding emotions, but instead a more generalized difficulty in processing visual motion (both to action and to emotion). These results align with earlier studies showing that visual motion processing is disrupted in dementia, but additionally show for the first time that this extends to the recognition of socially relevant biological motion. The absence of any MCI related impairment on the point-light biological emotion measure (coupled with deficits on the measure of facial affect recognition) also point to a potential disconnect between the processes implicated in the perception of emotion cues from static versus dynamic stimuli. For clinical (but not control) participants, performance on all recognition measures was inversely correlated with level of semantic memory impairment. (JINS, 2012, 18, 1–8)

Research Articles
Copyright © The International Neuropsychological Society 2012

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