Previous studies of emotion recognition suggest that detection of disgust relies on processing within the basal ganglia and insula. Research involving individuals with symptomatic and pre-diagnostic Huntington's disease (HD), a disease with known basal ganglia atrophy, has generally indicated a relative impairment in recognizing disgust. However, some data have suggested that recognition of other emotions (particularly fear and anger) may also be affected in HD, and a recent study found fear recognition deficits in the absence of other emotion-recognition impairments, including disgust. To further examine emotion recognition in HD, we administered a computerized facial emotion recognition task to 475 individuals with the HD CAG expansion and 57 individuals without. Logistic regression was used to examine associations of emotion recognition performance with estimated proximity to clinical diagnosis (based on CAG repeat length and current age) and striatal volumes. Recognition of anger, disgust, fear, sadness and surprise (but not happiness) was associated with estimated years to clinical diagnosis; performance was unrelated to striatal volumes. Compared to a CAG-normal control group, the CAG-expanded group demonstrated significantly less accurate recognition of all negative emotions (anger, disgust, fear, sadness). Additionally, participants with more pronounced motor signs of HD were significantly less accurate at recognizing negative emotions than were individuals with fewer motor signs. Findings indicate that recognition of all negative emotions declines early in the disease process, and poorer performance is associated with closer proximity to clinical diagnosis. In contrast to previous results, we found no evidence of relative impairments in recognizing disgust or fear, and no evidence to support a link between the striatum and disgust recognition.
"Social cognition refers to the cognitive processes associated with social interaction, which encompass the ability to recognize, process, and express emotions (Ekman 1992; Ekman 1993). These have been shown to be problematic in neurodegenerative diseases (Müller & Bekkelund 2013), including HD (Johnson et al. 2007). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background. We report the case of a 52-year-old male with pre-motor Huntington’s disease (HD) who has undergone detailed clinical and neuropsychological examination. This patient’s negative symptomatology and behavioural change are having a detrimental impact on his social, occupational and interpersonal life, in the absence of motor symptoms.
Methods. The patient has undergone repeat neuropsychological testing (T1 aged 50; T2 aged 52) with particular focus on executive function and social cognition on repeat testing.
Results. This case details a specific manifestation of HD relating to behavioural, psychiatric and social affective deficits.
Conclusions. This case illustrates how social cognitive changes can occur in HD, months and even years prior to the onset of motor features and how such unrecognized deficits can have a deleterious impact on an individual’s functional ability and lifestyle, before the disease is traditionally considered to have become manifest.
Irish journal of psychological medicine 10/2015; FirstView Online. DOI:10.1017/ipm.2015.48
"Impaired performance of HD patients on the IGT may also be related to a reduced impact of losses on these patients, which was found by measuring skin conductance responses during the IGT (Campbell et al., 2004). This finding is consistent with impaired recognition of negative emotions in HD patients (Johnson et al., 2007; Ille et al., 2011), and suggests that they may be less sensitive to large punishments, and therefore less likely to turn away from the bad card decks. Especially the second part of the IGT requires the ability to suppress disadvantageous courses of action in response to punishments, while reinforcing profitable actions (de Visser et al., 2011; van den Bos et al., 2013b, 2014). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Huntington's disease (HD) is a genetic, neurodegenerative disorder, which specifically affects striatal neurons of the indirect pathway, resulting in a progressive decline in muscle coordination and loss of emotional and cognitive control. Interestingly, predisposition to pathological gambling and other addictions involves disturbances in the same cortico-striatal circuits that are affected in HD, and display similar disinhibition-related symptoms, including changed sensitivity to punishments and rewards, impulsivity, and inability to consider long-term advantages over short-term rewards. Both HD patients and pathological gamblers also show similar performance deficits on risky decision-making tasks, such as the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). These similarities suggest that HD patients are a likely risk group for gambling problems. However, such problems have only incidentally been observed in HD patients. In this review, we aim to characterize the risk of pathological gambling in HD, as well as the underlying neurobiological mechanisms. Especially with the current rise of easily accessible Internet gambling opportunities, it is important to understand these risks and provide appropriate patient support accordingly. Based on neuropathological and behavioral findings, we propose that HD patients may not have an increased tendency to seek risks and start gambling, but that they do have an increased chance of developing an addiction once they engage in gambling activities. Therefore, current and future developments of Internet gambling possibilities and related addictions should be regarded with care, especially for vulnerable groups like HD patients.
"Gamma oscillation is associated with a number of cognitive processes, including perceptual and associative learning, object representation and selective attention (Engel et al., 2001; Gruber et al., 2002; Fell et al., 2003; Buzsaki and Draguhn, 2004). Both Huntington's disease and schizophrenic patients show abnormalities in frontostriatal pathways, perform poorly on tasks of attention and have deficits in executive functioning such as set-shifting abilities, executive planning skills, verbal fluency, verbal memory, and 'social cognition' (Sprengelmeyer et al., 1996; Ho et al., 2003; Snowden et al., 2003; Frith, 2004; Hennenlotter et al., 2004; Brune, 2005; Peinemann et al., 2005; Johnson et al., 2007; Allain et al., 2011). Moreover, schizophrenic patients show increased gamma power during sleep and periods of psychosis (Herrmann and Demiralp, 2005). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sleep disturbances in Huntington's disease may be deleterious to the cognitive performance, affective behaviour, and general well-being of patients, but a comprehensive description of the progression of changes in sleep and electroencephalogram in Huntington's disease has never been conducted. Here we studied sleep and electroencephalogram disturbances in a transgenic mouse model of Huntington's disease (R6/2 mice). We implanted 10 R6/2 mice and five wild-type littermates with electromyography electrodes, frontofrontal and frontoparietal electroencephalogram electrodes and then recorded sleep/wake behaviour at presymptomatic, symptomatic and late stages of the disease. In addition to sleep-wake scoring, we performed a spectral analysis of the sleep electroencephalogram. We found that sleep and electroencephalogram were already significantly disrupted in R6/2 mice at 9 weeks of age (presymptomatic stage). By the time they were symptomatic, R6/2 mice were unable to maintain long periods of wakefulness and had an increased propensity for rapid eye movement sleep. In addition, the peak frequency of theta rhythm was shifted progressively from 7 Hz to 6 Hz during rapid eye movement sleep, whereas slow wave activity decreased gradually during non-rapid eye movement sleep. Finally, as the disease progressed, an abnormal electroencephalogram gamma activity (30-40 Hz) emerged in R6/2 mice irrespective of sleep states. This is reminiscent of the increased gamma power described in schizophrenic patients during sleep and events of psychosis. Gaining a better understanding of sleep and electroencephalogram changes in patients with Huntington's disease should be a priority, since it will enable clinicians to initiate appropriate investigations and to instigate treatments that could dramatically improve patients' quality of life.
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