The objectives of the present study were to (i) better characterize visual emotional experience in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), (ii) identify clinical risk factors that might be predictive of a change in emotional experience, and (iii) study the relationships between emotional experience and psychobehavioral/quality-of-life factors. Fifty patients with TLE and fifty matched controls evaluated the emotional content of unpleasant, pleasant, and neutral pictures with respect to their valence (unpleasant-to-pleasant) and arousal (low-to-high) levels. Demographic, cognitive, and psychobehavioral data were recorded for all participants, and clinical data and factors related to quality of life were also collected for patients with TLE. There were no significant differences between the group with TLE and the control group in terms of valence evaluations. However, arousal scores for neutral pictures were significantly higher in patients with TLE than in controls. There was also a nonsignificant trend towards lower arousal scores for pleasant pictures in patients with TLE than in controls. Although none of the recorded clinical factors were found to be related to emotional experience, the level of apathy was predictive of greater arousal experience for neutral pictures in patients with TLE. In conclusion, emotional experience appears to be modified in TLE and might be related to apathy. Changes in emotional experience should be taken into account in studies in which neutral stimuli are used to establish a baseline level when assessing emotional and cognitive processing.
Keywords: Apathy; Arousal; Emotional experience; Social cognition; Temporal lobe epilepsy.
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