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Research Article| Volume 357, ISSUE 1-2, P222-228, October 15, 2015

Emotional processing in patients with mild cognitive impairment: The influence of the valence and intensity of emotional stimuli

The valence and intensity of emotional stimuli influence emotional processing in patients with mild cognitive impairment

      Highlights

      • Elderly with MCI have a diminished ability to discriminate facial emotions.
      • Elderly with MCI process EFEs worse than healthy individuals.
      • EFEs's valence and intensity seem to play a prominent role in emotional processing.
      • MCI individuals seem to be affected emotional processing neurological substrates.
      • Emotional processing seems to be crucial in attentional resource intervention.

      Abstract

      We studied the ability of individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to process emotional facial expressions (EFEs). To date, no systematic study has addressed how variation in intensity affects recognition of the different type of EFEs in such subjects.

      Design

      Two groups of 50 elderly subjects, 50 healthy individuals and 50 with MCI, completed a task that involved identifying 180 EFEs prepared using virtual models. Two features of the EFEs were contemplated, their valence (operationalized in six basic emotions) and five levels of intensity.

      Results

      At all levels of intensity, elderly individuals with MCI were significantly worse at identifying each EFE than healthy subjects. Some emotions were easier to identify than others, with happiness proving to be the easiest to identify and disgust the hardest, and intensity influenced the identification of the EFEs (the stronger the intensity, the greater the number of correct identifications). Overall, elderly individuals with MCI had a poorer capacity to process EFEs, suggesting that cognitive ability modulates the processing of emotions, where features of such stimuli also seem to play a prominent role (e.g., valence and intensity). Thus, the neurological substrates involved in emotional processing appear to be affected by MCI.

      Keywords

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