The recognition of facial emotions in spinocerebellar ataxia patients

Federico D'Agata, Paola Caroppo, Bruno Baudino, Marcella Caglio, Michela Croce, Mauro Bergui, Marco Tamietto, Paolo Mortara, Laura Orsi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Patients with cerebellar lesions present some affective and cognitive disorders, defining a peculiar pattern of cognitive impairment, so-called cerebellar cognitive affective syndrome. This pattern has been confirmed in many genotypes of spinocerebellar ataxias (SCA), a group of genetically defined pathologies characterized by the degeneration of the cerebellum and its connections. Recently, in SCA patients, some authors focused the interest on social cognition evidencing an impairment of theory of mind and basic emotion recognition by verbal material. The recognition of emotions in faces is an essential component of social cognition; therefore, we assessed this ability in SCA patients, expanding the study from the basic verbal emotions to the basic and social visual emotion recognition. We assessed facial emotion recognition using two basic and social emotion tasks in a group of SCA patients together with a complete clinical and neuropsychological evaluation. We compared results with the performance of a control group. We demonstrated a significant difference between patients and controls both in basic and social emotion recognition, although we found a specific impairment only for social emotions. The deficit was not correlated to clinical and demographic features. The cognitive and psychological profile did not explain the impairment in emotion recognition. This result supports the hypothesis that the impairment in social emotion recognition could be specifically related to a defect in the corticocerebellar network.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)600-610
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Cerebellum
  • Facial emotion recognition
  • Neuropsychology
  • SCA
  • Spinocerebellar ataxia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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