Beyond disgust: impaired recognition of negative emotions prior to diagnosis in Huntington's disease.
ABSTRACT 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.
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ABSTRACT: This study aimed to characterise, emotion perception deficits in symptomatic Huntington's disease (HD) via the use of event-related potentials (ERPs). ERP data were recorded during a computerised facial expression task in 11 HD participants and 11 matched controls. Expression (scrambled, neutral, happy, angry, disgust) classification accuracy and intensity were assessed. Relationships between ERP indices and clinical disease characteristics were also examined. Accuracy was significantly lower for HD relative to controls, due to reduced performance for neutral, angry and disgust (but not happy) faces. Intensity ratings did not differ between groups. HD participants displayed significantly reduced visual processing amplitudes extending across pre-face (P100) and face-specific (N170) processing periods, whereas subsequent emotion processing amplitudes (N250) were similar across groups. Face-specific and emotion-specific derivations of the N170 and N250 ('neutral minus scrambled' and 'each emotion minus neutral', respectively) did not differ between groups. Our data suggest that the facial emotion recognition performance deficits in HD are primarily related to neural degeneration underlying 'generalised' visual processing, rather than face or emotional specific processing. ERPs are a useful tool to separate functionally discreet impairments in HD, and provide an important avenue for biomarker application that could more-selectively track disease progression.Clinical neurophysiology: official journal of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology 01/2014; · 3.12 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The brain mechanisms of cognitive impairment in prodromal Huntington disease (prHD) are not well understood. Although striatal atrophy correlates with some cognitive abilities, few studies of prHD have investigated whether cortical gray matter morphometry correlates in a regionally specific manner with functioning in different cognitive domains. This knowledge would inform the selection of cognitive measures for clinical trials that would be most sensitive to the target of a treatment intervention. In this study, random forest analysis was used to identify neuroanatomical correlates of functioning in five cognitive domains including attention and information processing speed, working memory, verbal learning and memory, negative emotion recognition, and temporal processing. Participants included 325 prHD individuals with varying levels of disease progression and 119 gene-negative controls with a family history of HD. In intermediate analyses, we identified brain regions that showed significant differences between the prHD and the control groups in cortical thickness and striatal volume. Brain morphometry in these regions was then correlated with cognitive functioning in each of the domains in the prHD group using random forest methods. We hypothesized that different regional patterns of brain morphometry would be associated with performances in distinct cognitive domains. The results showed that performances in different cognitive domains that are vulnerable to decline in prHD were correlated with regionally specific patterns of cortical and striatal morphometry. Putamen and/or caudate volumes were top-ranked correlates of performance across all cognitive domains, as was cortical thickness in regions related to the processing demands of each domain. The results underscore the importance of identifying structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI) markers of functioning in different cognitive domains, as their relative sensitivity depends on the extent to which processing is called upon by different brain networks. The findings have implications for identifying neuroimaging and cognitive outcome measures for use in clinical trials.Brain and behavior. 01/2014; 4(1):29-40.
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ABSTRACT: Huntington's disease (HD) is an inherited autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder. The most prominent sign of HD is the presence of involuntary motor movements. However, HD is also characterized by marked cognitive decline, which often precedes the onset of motor symptoms and is generally considered to be more debilitating to the patients and their families, compared to motor symptoms. Cognitive decline is widespread across most faculties of cognition in later stages of the disease, but seems to be selective in preclinical and early stages of the disease, with deficits in the HD patients' ability to multitask, their speed of processing, and executive function. It is now well established that preceding clinical diagnosis there is a preclinical stage, during which HD gene mutation carriers are relatively symptom free, despite disease pathological onset and the presence of neurodegeneration. Evidence from functional brain imaging studies suggests the presence of neural compensation in preclinical stages of HD, whereby the brain undergoes functional reorganization in response to neurodegeneration to preserve motor and cognitive performance. In this review, we will describe the underlying HD pathology with a focus on how it links to the cognitive phenotype. We will also present evidence regarding the presence of neural compensation in HD and the possible mechanisms supporting it. Finally, we will discuss current research in the field of cognitive interventions that aim to support and enhance neural compensation in HD. These research efforts could, one day, prolong the preclinical stage and assist with symptom management of those affected with HD. © 2014 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder SocietyMovement Disorders 04/2014; 29(5). · 4.56 Impact Factor