Intact Recognition of Facial Emotion in Parkinson's Disease

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Although the basal ganglia have been shown to be critical for the expression of emotion in prosody and facial expressions, it is unclear whether they are also critical for recognition of emotions. Selective pathology of parts of the basal ganglia is a hallmark of individuals with Parkinson's disease, and such patients have been examined in several studies of emotion. We examined 18 patients with Parkinson's disease (11 men, 7 women) and 13 age-, education-, gender ratio-, and IQ-matched normal controls on their ability to recognize emotions signaled by facial expressions. Parkinson's patients performed entirely normally on a quantitative task of recognizing emotional facial expressions. The findings do not support the notion that the sectors of basal ganglia that are dysfunctional in Parkinson's disease are essential for recognizing emotion in facial expressions.

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