Consequences of brain tumour resection on emotion recognition

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Emotion processing impairments are common in patients undergoing brain surgery for fronto-temporal tumour resection, with potential consequences on social interactions. However, evidence is controversial concerning side and site of lesions causing such deficits. This study investigates visual and auditory emotion recognition in brain tumour patients with the aim of clarifying which lesion sites are related to impairments in emotion processing from different modalities. Thirty-four patients were evaluated, before and after surgery, on facial expression and emotional prosody recognition; voxel-based lesion–symptom mapping (VLSM) analyses were performed on patients' post-surgery MRI images. Results showed that patients' performance decreased after surgery in both visual and auditory modalities, but, in general, recovered 3 months after surgery. In facial expression recognition, left brain-damaged patients showed greater post-surgery deterioration than right brain-damaged ones, whose performance specifically decreased for sadness and fear. VLSM analysis revealed two segregated areas in the left hemisphere accounting for post-surgery scores for happy (fronto-temporo-insular region) and surprised (middle frontal gyrus and inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus) facial expressions. Our findings demonstrate that surgical removal of tumours in the fronto-temporal region produces impairment in facial emotion recognition with an overall recovery at 3 months, suggesting a partially different representation of positive and negative emotions in the left and right hemispheres for visually – but not auditory – presented emotions; moreover, we show that deficits in specific expression recognition are associated with discrete lesion locations.

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