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Depressive symptoms are prominent psychopathological features of Huntington's disease (HD), making a negative impact on social functioning and well-being.
We compared the frequencies of a history of depression, previous suicide attempts and current subthreshold depression between 61 early-stage HD participants and 40 matched controls. The HD group was then split based on the overall HD group's median Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale-depression score into a group of 30 non-depressed participants (mean 0.8, s.d. = 0.7) and a group of 31 participants with subthreshold depressive symptoms (mean 7.3, s.d. = 3.5) to explore the neuroanatomy underlying subthreshold depressive symptoms in HD using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).
Frequencies of history of depression, previous suicide attempts or current subthreshold depressive symptoms were higher in HD than in controls. The severity of current depressive symptoms was also higher in HD, but not associated with the severity of HD motor signs or disease burden. Compared with the non-depressed HD group DTI revealed lower fractional anisotropy (FA) values in the frontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, insula and cerebellum of the HD group with subthreshold depressive symptoms. In contrast, VBM measures were similar in both HD groups. A history of depression, the severity of HD motor signs or disease burden did not correlate with FA values of these regions.
Current subthreshold depressive symptoms in early HD are associated with microstructural changes – without concomitant brain volume loss – in brain regions known to be involved in major depressive disorder, but not those typically associated with HD pathology.
Previous behavioural and neuroimaging studies of emotion processing in autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) have focused on the use of facial stimuli. To date, however, no studies have examined emotion processing in autism across a broad range of social signals.
This study addressed this issue by investigating emotion processing in a group of 23 adults with ASD and 23 age- and gender-matched controls. Recognition of basic emotions (‘happiness’, ‘sadness’, ‘anger’, disgust' and ‘fear’) was assessed from facial, body movement and vocal stimuli. The ability to make social judgements (such as approachability) from facial stimuli was also investigated.
Significant deficits in emotion recognition were found in the ASD group relative to the control group across all stimulus domains (faces, body movements and voices). These deficits were seen across a range of emotions. The ASD group were also impaired in making social judgements compared to the control group and this correlated with impairments in basic emotion recognition.
This study demonstrates that there are significant and broad-ranging deficits in emotion processing in ASD present across a range of stimulus domains and in the auditory and visual modality; they cannot therefore be accounted for simply in terms of impairments in face processing or in the visual modality alone. These results identify a core deficit affecting the processing of a wide range of emotional information in ASD, which contributes to the impairments in social function seen in people with this condition.
A wide range of neuropsychiatric conditions, including schizophrenia and autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), are associated with impairments in social function. Previous studies have shown that individuals with schizophrenia and ASD have deficits in making a wide range of social judgements from faces, including decisions related to threat (such as judgements of approachability) and decisions not related to physical threat (such as judgements of intelligence). We have investigated healthy control participants to see whether there is a common neural system activated during such social decisions, on the basis that deficits in this system may contribute to the impairments seen in these disorders.
We investigated the neural basis of social decision making during judgements of approachability and intelligence from faces in 24 healthy participants using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). We used conjunction analysis to identify common brain regions activated during both tasks.
Activation of the amygdala, medial prefrontal cortex, inferior prefrontal cortex and cerebellum was seen during performance of both social tasks, compared to simple gender judgements from the same stimuli. Task-specific activations were present in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in the intelligence task and in the inferior and middle temporal cortex in the approachability task.
The present study identified a common network of brain regions activated during the performance of two different forms of social judgement from faces. Dysfunction of this network is likely to contribute to the broad-ranging deficits in social function seen in psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and ASD.
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