Specific impairments of emotion perception in multiple sclerosis

Author(s): Phillips LH, Henry JD, Scott C, Summers F, Whyte M, et al.


Objective:Multiple sclerosis (MS) often results in demyelination of a network of frontal-subcortical tracts involved in processing emotional information. We investigated the effect of MS on the ability to identify emotional and nonemotional information from static and dynamic stimuli and determined whether difficulties in emotion perception related to quality of life.

Method:32 MS and 33 control participants, matched for age and education, identified emotions and nonemotional information from static images of faces and dynamic videos of people interacting. They also completed cognitive assessment and quality of life ratings.

Results:On the static face perception tasks, participants with MS performed more poorly than healthy controls on emotion perception, t(63) = 3.30, p < .01, d = .83, but not identity perception, t(63) = 1.18, d = .30. For the dynamic tasks, the MS group were impaired on emotion perception, t(63) = 3.41, p = .001, d = .86, but not age/gender perception, t(63) = 0.15, d = .04. Ratings of social and psychological aspects of quality of life in MS were related to emotion perception scores, controlling for disease severity and duration, age, depression, and cognitive function, with r2 ranging from .17 to .24.

Conclusions:These results indicate a specific deficit in decoding static and dynamic information about emotion in MS, as compared to nonemotional information. There were specific relationships between emotion perception problems and poor social and psychological quality of life, indicating that emotional skills should be considered when evaluating functioning in MS.

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