Identification and intensity of disgust: Distinguishing visual, linguistic and facial expressions processing in Parkinson disease

Behav Brain Res. 2017 Jul 14;330:30-36. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2017.05.003. Epub 2017 May 3.


Objectives & methods: Most of the studies since now show an impairment for facial displays of disgust recognition in Parkinson disease. A general impairment in disgust processing in patients with Parkinson disease might adversely affect their social interactions, given the relevance of this emotion for human relations. However, despite the importance of faces, disgust is also expressed through other format of visual stimuli such as sentences and visual images. The aim of our study was to explore disgust processing in a sample of patients affected by Parkinson disease, by means of various tests tackling not only facial recognition but also other format of visual stimuli through which disgust can be recognized.

Results: Our results confirm that patients are impaired in recognizing facial displays of disgust. Further analyses show that patients are also impaired and slower for other facial expressions, with the only exception of happiness. Notably however, patients with Parkinson disease processed visual images and sentences as controls.

Conclusions: Our findings show a dissociation within different formats of visual stimuli of disgust, suggesting that Parkinson disease is not characterized by a general compromising of disgust processing, as often suggested. The involvement of the basal ganglia-frontal cortex system might spare some cognitive components of emotional processing, related to memory and culture, at least for disgust.

Keywords: Disgust; Emotion recognition; Facial expressions; Insula; Parkinson disease.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Facial Expression
  • Facial Recognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Linguistics / methods
  • Male
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Pleasure / physiology
  • Social Perception