Emotional deficits are part of the non-motor features of Parkinson's disease but few attention has been paid to specific aspects such as subjective emotional experience and autonomic responses. This study aimed to investigate the mechanisms of emotional recognition in Parkinson's Disease (PD) using the following levels: explicit evaluation of emotions (Self-Assessment Manikin) and implicit reactivity (Skin Conductance Response; electromyographic measure of facial feedback of the zygomaticus and corrugator muscles). 20 PD Patients and 34 healthy controls were required to observe and evaluate affective pictures during physiological parameters recording. In PD, the appraisal process on both valence and arousal features of emotional cues were preserved, but we found significant impairment in autonomic responses. Specifically, in comparison to healthy controls, PD patients revealed lower Skin Conductance Response values to negative and high arousing emotional stimuli. In addition, the electromyographic measures showed defective responses exclusively limited to negative and high arousing emotional category: PD did not show increasing of corrugator activity in response to negative emotions as happened in heathy controls. PD subjects inadequately respond to the emotional categories which were considered more salient: they had preserved appraisal process, but impaired automatic ability to distinguish between different emotional contexts.
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