Introduction: Decoding emotional information from faces and voices is crucial for efficient interpersonal communication. Emotional decoding deficits have been found in alcohol-dependence (ALC), particularly in crossmodal situations (with simultaneous stimulations from different modalities), but are still underexplored in Korsakoff syndrome (KS). The aim of this study is to determine whether the continuity hypothesis, postulating a gradual worsening of cognitive and brain impairments from ALC to KS, is valid for emotional crossmodal processing.
Methods: Sixteen KS, 17 ALC and 19 matched healthy controls (CP) had to detect the emotion (anger or happiness) displayed by auditory, visual or crossmodal auditory-visual stimuli. Crossmodal stimuli were either emotionally congruent (leading to a facilitation effect, i.e. enhanced performance for crossmodal condition compared to unimodal ones) or incongruent (leading to an interference effect, i.e. decreased performance for crossmodal condition due to discordant information across modalities). Reaction times and accuracy were recorded.
Results: Crossmodal integration for congruent information was dampened only in ALC, while both ALC and KS demonstrated, compared to CP, decreased performance for decoding emotional facial expressions in the incongruent condition.
Conclusions: The crossmodal integration appears impaired in ALC but preserved in KS. Both alcohol-related disorders present an increased interference effect. These results show the interest of more ecological designs, using crossmodal stimuli, to explore emotional decoding in alcohol-related disorders. They also suggest that the continuum hypothesis cannot be generalised to emotional decoding abilities.
Keywords: Crossmodal integration; Korsakoff syndrome; alcohol-dependence; emotion.