Aims Studies have shown that patients with Huntington's disease (HD) can exhibit impairment in the recognition of emotional facial expressions such as disgust. It is likely that the same neural substrates are involved in experiencing an emotion and recognising that emotion in another. However, few studies have investigated emotional experience in HD. We investigated whether HD is associated with changes in emotional responses to a variety of visual and verbal stimuli selected to elicit core disgust, moral disgust, fear and happiness.
Methods Thirteen patients with HD and 12controls provided emotional ratings after reading emotion eliciting scenarios and viewing pictures from the International Affective Picture System database.
Results Patients with HD did not differ to controls for happiness ratings for stimuli selected to elicit happiness, and small differences in disgust ratings for core and moral disgust stimuli failed to reach significance. However, patients did exhibit significantly lower fear ratings in response to both sets of fear stimuli (pictures and scenarios), and significantly higher anger ratings than controls in response to fear pictures.
Conclusions These differences in fear response could reflect dysfunction within frontostriatal pathways involving the amygdala. Changes in fear experience in HD could affect decision making and social interaction.
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