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Perception of facial expressions of emotion in bipolar disorder


  • Each author declares that they have no potential conflict of interest.

Professor Allan H Young, School of Neurology, Neurobiology and Psychiatry, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Leazes Wing, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Queen Victoria Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4LP, UK.
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Objectives:  Some studies have reported deficits in the perception of facial expressions among depressed individuals compared with healthy controls, while others have reported negative biases in expression perception. We examined whether altered perception of emotion reflects an underlying trait-like effect in affective disorder by examining facial expression perception in euthymic bipolar patients.

Methods:  Sensitivity to six different facial expressions, as well as accuracy of emotion recognition, was examined among 17 euthymic bipolar patients and 17 healthy controls using an interactive computer program.

Results:  No differences were found between euthymic bipolar patients and controls in terms of sensitivity to any particular emotion. Although initial analysis of the data suggested impairment in the recognition of fear among the patients, identification of this emotion was not relatively impaired compared with that of the other emotions.

Conclusions:  The study did not find any conclusive evidence for trait-like deficits in the perception of facially conveyed emotions in bipolar disorder. Altered perception of facial expressions that has been found to accompany depressed mood may instead reflect mood-congruent biases.