Selective Attention and Facial Expression Recognition in Patients with Parkinson's Disease

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Parkinson's disease (PD) has been associated with facial expression recognition difficulties. However, this impairment could be secondary to the one produced in other cognitive processes involved in recognition, such as selective attention. This study investigates the influence of two selective attention components (inhibition and visual search) on facial expression recognition in PD. We compared facial expression and non-emotional stimuli recognition abilities of 51 patients and 51 healthy controls, by means of an adapted Stroop task, and by “The Face in the Crowd” paradigm, which assess Inhibition and Visual Search abilities, respectively. Patients scored worse than controls in both tasks with facial expressions, but not with the other nonemotional stimuli, indicating specific emotional recognition impairment, not dependent on selective attention abilities. This should be taken into account in patients' neuropsychological assessment given the relevance of emotional facial expression for social communication in everyday settings.

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