Patients With Parkinson’s Disease Display a Dopamine Therapy Related Negative Bias and an Enlarged Range in Emotional Responses to Facial Emotional Stimuli

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Objective: The literature on emotional processing in Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients shows mixed results. This may be because of various methodological and/or patient-related differences, such as failing to adjust for cognitive functioning, depression, and/or mood. Method: In the current study, we tested PD patients and healthy controls (HCs) using emotional stimuli across a variety of tasks, including visual search, short-term memory (STM), categorical perception, and emotional stimulus rating. The PD and HC groups were matched on cognitive ability, depression, and mood. We also explored possible relationships between task results and antiparkinsonian treatment effects, as measured by levodopa equivalent dosages (LED), in the PD group. Results: The results show that PD patients use a larger emotional range compared with HCs when reporting their impression of emotional faces on rated emotional valence, arousal, and potency. The results also show that dopaminergic therapy was correlated with stimulus rating results such that PD patients with higher LED scores rated negative faces as less arousing, less negative, and less powerful. Finally, results also show that PD patients display a general slowing effect in the visual search tasks compared with HCs, indicating overall slowed responses. There were no group differences observed in the STM or categorical perception tasks. Conclusions: Our results indicate a relationship between emotional responses, PD, and dopaminergic therapy, in which PD per se is associated with stronger emotional responses, whereas LED levels are negatively correlated with the strength of emotional responses.

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