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Recognition of facial and musical emotions in Parkinson's disease


Correspondence: N. Ehrlé, CHU de Reims, Service de neurologie, 45 rue Cognacq-Jay 51092 Reims Cedex, France (tel.: +00 33 3 26 78 39 64 03; fax: +00 33 3 26 78 43 19; e-mail:


Background and purpose

Patients with amygdala lesions were found to be impaired in recognizing the fear emotion both from face and from music. In patients with Parkinson's disease (PD), impairment in recognition of emotions from facial expressions was reported for disgust, fear, sadness and anger, but no studies had yet investigated this population for the recognition of emotions from both face and music.


The ability to recognize basic universal emotions (fear, happiness and sadness) from both face and music was investigated in 24 medicated patients with PD and 24 healthy controls. The patient group was tested for language (verbal fluency tasks), memory (digit and spatial span), executive functions (Similarities and Picture Completion subtests of the WAIS III, Brixton and Stroop tests), visual attention (Bells test), and fulfilled self-assessment tests for anxiety and depression.


Results showed that the PD group was significantly impaired for recognition of both fear and sadness emotions from facial expressions, whereas their performance in recognition of emotions from musical excerpts was not different from that of the control group. The scores of fear and sadness recognition from faces were neither correlated to scores in tests for executive and cognitive functions, nor to scores in self-assessment scales.


We attributed the observed dissociation to the modality (visual vs. auditory) of presentation and to the ecological value of the musical stimuli that we used. We discuss the relevance of our findings for the care of patients with PD.