OBJECTIVE: Cognitive deficits associated with frontal lobe dysfunction can occur in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), particularly in individuals with bulbar ALS who can also suffer pathologic emotional lability. Because frontal pathophysiology can alter emotional perception, we examined whether emotional perception deficits occur in ALS, and whether they are related to depressive or dementia symptoms. METHODS: Bulbar ALS participants (n=13) and age-matched healthy normal controls (n=12) completed standardized tests of facial emotional and prosodic recognition, the Geriatric Depression Scale, and the Mini-Mental State Examination. Participants identified the basic emotion (happy, sad, angry, afraid, surprised, disgusted) that matched 39 facial expressions and 28 taped, semantically neutral, intoned sentences. RESULTS: ALS patients performed significantly worse than controls on facial recognition but not on prosodic recognition. Eight of 13 patients (62%) scored below the 95% confidence interval of controls in recognizing facial emotions, and 3 of these patients (23% overall) also scored lower in prosody recognition. Among the 8 patients with emotional perceptual impairment, one-half did not have depressive, or memory or cognitive symptoms on screening, whereas the remainder showed dementia symptoms alone or together with depressive symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: Emotional recognition deficits occur in bulbar ALS, particularly with emotional facial expressions, and can arise independent of depressive and dementia symptoms or comorbid with depression and dementia. These findings expand the scope of cognitive dysfunction detected in ALS, and bolsters the view of ALS as a multisystem disorder involving cognitive and also motor deficits.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Psychiatry and Mental health