Impairments in the ability to recognize and attribute emotional states to others have been described in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients and linked to the dysfunction of key nodes of the emotional empathy network. Microstructural correlates of such disorders are still unexplored. We investigated the white-matter substrates of emotional attribution deficits in a sample of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients without cognitive decline. Thirteen individuals with either probable or definite amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and 14 healthy controls were enrolled in a Diffusion Tensor Imaging study and administered the Story-based Empathy Task, assessing the ability to attribute mental states to others (i.e., Intention and Emotion attribution conditions). As already reported, a significant global reduction of empathic skills, mainly driven by a failure in Emotion Attribution condition, was found in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients compared to healthy subjects. The severity of this deficit was significantly correlated with fractional anisotropy along the forceps minor, genu of corpus callosum, right uncinate and inferior fronto-occipital fasciculi. The involvement of frontal commissural fiber tracts and right ventral associative fronto-limbic pathways is the microstructural hallmark of the impairment of high-order processing of socio-emotional stimuli in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. These results support the notion of the neurofunctional and neuroanatomical continuum between amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)