Neurological and psychiatric aspects of emotion

Handb Clin Neurol. 2012;106:53-74. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-52002-9.00004-8.


Neurological and psychiatric aspects of emotions have been the focus of intense research for the past 30 years. Studies in both acute (e.g., stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI)) and chronic (e.g., dementia, Parkinson's disease) neurological disorders demonstrated a high frequency of both depression and apathy. Studies in stroke and TBI reported a significant association between lesion location and depression. Both depression and apathy are significant predictors of poor recovery among patients with brain injuries, and of steeper cognitive and functional decline among patients with neurodegenerative disorders. Poor insight and judgment are frequently found among patients with brain injury or degeneration. There is increasing evidence that damage to specific brain regions, such as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, is associated with inappropriate emotional reactions in social contexts and diminished anxiety and concern for the future. In severe cases, behavioural changes may also include poor decision-making in the social realm, deficits in goal-directed behavior, and lack of insight into these changes. Future studies will validate specific diagnostic criteria for the various cognitive, emotional, and behavioral problems reported among patients with neurological disorders, which may result in more specific and effective treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavioral Symptoms / etiology*
  • Behavioral Symptoms / pathology
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / complications*
  • Nervous System Diseases / complications*