Article

Social cognition in individuals with agenesis of the corpus callosum.

Fuller Graduate School of Psychology, Pasadena, CA, USA.
Social neuroscience (Impact Factor: 2.87). 02/2010; 5(3):296-308. DOI: 10.1080/17470910903462419
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Past research has revealed that individuals with agenesis of the corpus callosum (ACC) have deficits in interhemispheric transfer, complex novel problem-solving, and the comprehension of paralinguistic aspects of language. Case studies and family reports also suggest problems in social cognition. The performance of 11 individuals with complete ACC and with normal intelligence was compared to that of 13 IQ- and age-matched controls on three measures of social cognition. Individuals with ACC were indistinguishable from controls on the Happe Theory of Mind Stories and the Adult Faux Pas Test, but performed significantly worse on various portions of the Thames Awareness of Social Inference Test (TASIT) involving interpretations of videotaped social vignettes. Further analysis of the TASIT indicated that individuals with ACC showed deficiency in the recognition of emotion, weakness in understanding paradoxical sarcasm, and particular difficulty interpreting textual versus visual social cues. These results suggest that the tendency for deficient social cognition in individuals with ACC stems from a combination of difficulty integrating information from multiple sources, using paralinguistic cues for emotion, and understanding nonliteral speech. Together, these deficits would contribute to a less robust theory of mind.

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    ABSTRACT: Background: Impaired social functioning is a common symptom of individuals with developmental disruptions in callosal connectivity. Among these developmental conditions, agenesis of the corpus callosum provides the most extreme and clearly identifiable example of callosal disconnection. To date, deficits in nonliteral language comprehension, humor, theory of mind, and social reasoning have been documented in agenesis of the corpus callosum. Here, we examined a basic social ability as yet not investigated in this population: recognition of facial emotion and its association with social gaze. Methods: Nine individuals with callosal agenesis and nine matched controls completed four tasks involving emotional faces: emotion recognition from upright and inverted faces, gender recognition, and passive viewing. Eye-tracking data were collected concurrently on all four tasks and analyzed according to designated facial regions of interest. Results: Individuals with callosal agenesis exhibited impairments in recognizing emotions from upright faces, in particular lower accuracy for fear and anger, and these impairments were directly associated with diminished attention to the eye region. The callosal agenesis group exhibited greater consistency in emotion recognition across conditions (upright vs. inverted), with poorest performance for fear identification in both conditions. The callosal agenesis group also had atypical facial scanning (lower fractional dwell time in the eye region) during gender naming and passive viewing of faces, but they did not differ from controls on gender naming performance. The pattern of results did not differ when taking into account full-scale intelligence quotient or presence of autism spectrum symptoms. Conclusions: Agenesis of the corpus callosum results in a pattern of atypical facial scanning characterized by diminished attention to the eyes. This pattern suggests that reduced callosal connectivity may contribute to the development and maintenance of emotion processing deficits involving reduced attention to others' eyes.
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