Effects of stimulus-related variables on mental states recognition in Huntington’s disease

Marta Olivetti Belardinelli, Thomas Huenefeldt, Sabrina Maffi, Ferdinando Squitieri, Simone Migliore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Cognitive abnormalities in Huntington’s Disease (HD) can involve the specific impairment of the social perspective taking as well as difficulties in recognizing others’ mental state many years before the onset of motor symptoms. Aims: At the scope of assessing how the difficulties in mental state recognition might be an HD early sign before motor symptoms appear, our study was aimed to investigate how the recognition of others’ mental states in HD subjects is moderated by different stimulus related features (gender, difficulty (low, medium, high), and valence (positive, negative, neutral) of the mental states that are to be recognized). Methods: Subjects with premanifest (n = 20) and manifest (n = 40) HD performed the revised ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test’ and were compared with age-matched healthy controls (HC, 40 subjects per cohort). Results: Our results highlight an early impairment in mental state recognition preceding manifest HD symptoms and a deterioration of these abilities with HD progression. Moreover, we found in HD premanifest subjects an impairment concerning the recognition of negative and neutral mental states, as well as of mental states with moderate recognition difficulty. Finally, we found that participant gender did not influence the performance in recognizing others’ mental states, while all participants recognized mental states displayed by females more accurately than those displayed by males. Conclusions: We conclude that difficulties in the recognition of complex mental states can be considered as an early sign of HD, before evident behavioral manifestations, and peculiar features of the stimulus influence it.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Neuroscience
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • early diagnosis
  • emotional valence
  • manifest and premanifest patients
  • Mental state recognition in Huntington’s disease
  • Reading the Mind in the Eyes test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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