Emotion recognition in early Parkinson's disease patients undergoing deep brain stimulation or dopaminergic therapy: A comparison to healthy participants

Lindsey Gilling McIntosh, Sishir Mannava, Corrie R. Camalier, Bradley S. Folley, Aaron Albritton, Peter E. Konrad, David Charles, Sohee Park, Joseph S. Neimat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Parkinson's disease (PD) is traditionally regarded as a neurodegenerative movement disorder, however, nigrostriatal dopaminergic degeneration is also thought to disrupt non-motor loops connecting basal ganglia to areas in frontal cortex involved in cognition and emotion processing. PD patients are impaired on tests of emotion recognition, but it is difficult to disentangle this deficit from the more general cognitive dysfunction that frequently accompanies disease progression. Testing for emotion recognition deficits early in the disease course, prior to cognitive decline, better assesses the sensitivity of these non-motor corticobasal ganglia-thalamocortical loops involved in emotion processing to early degenerative change in basal ganglia circuits. In addition, contrasting this with a group of healthy aging individuals demonstrates changes in emotion processing specific to the degeneration of basal ganglia circuitry in PD. Early PD patients (EPD) were recruited from a randomized clinical trial testing the safety and tolerability of deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN-DBS) in early-staged PD. EPD patients were previously randomized to receive optimal drug therapy only (ODT), or drug therapy plus STN-DBS (ODT + DBS). Matched healthy elderly controls (HEC) and young controls (HYC) also participated in this study. Participants completed two control tasks and three emotion recognition tests that varied in stimulus domain. EPD patients were impaired on all emotion recognition tasks compared to HEC. Neither therapy type (ODT or ODT + DBS) nor therapy state (ON/OFF) altered emotion recognition performance in this study. Finally, HEC were impaired on vocal emotion recognition relative to HYC, suggesting a decline related to healthy aging. This study supports the existence of impaired emotion recognition early in the PD course, implicating an early disruption of fronto-striatal loops mediating emotional function.

Original languageEnglish
Article number349
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience
Issue numberJAN
Early online date21 Jan 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jan 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • DBS
  • dopamine
  • early-stage Parkinson's disease
  • emotion recognition
  • healthy aging
  • levodopa


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