Right hemisphere dysfunction and emotional processing in ALS: an fMRI study

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Emotional processing may be abnormal in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Our aim was to explore functional anatomical correlates in the processing of aversive information in ALS patients. We examined the performance of nine non-demented ALS patients and 10 healthy controls on two functional MRI (fMRI) tasks, consisting of an emotional attribution task and a memory recognition task of unpleasant versus neutral stimuli. During the emotional decision task, subjects were asked to select one of three unpleasant or neutral words. During the memory task, subjects were asked to recognize words presented during the previous task. Controls showed, as expected, greater activation in the right middle frontal gyrus during selection of unpleasant than neutral words, and a greater activation mainly in right-sided cerebral areas during the emotional recognition task. Conversely, patients showed a general increase in activation of the left hemisphere, and reduced activation in right hemisphere in both emotional tasks. Such findings may suggest extra-motor neurodegeneration involving key circuits of emotions, mostly negative, commonly involved in FTD.

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