Electrophysiological Responses to Emotional Facial Expressions Following a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Brain Sci. 2019 Jun 18;9(6):142. doi: 10.3390/brainsci9060142.


The present study aimed to measure neural information processing underlying emotional recognition from facial expressions in adults having sustained a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) as compared to healthy individuals. We thus measured early (N1, N170) and later (N2) event-related potential (ERP) components during presentation of fearful, neutral, and happy facial expressions in 10 adults with mTBI and 11 control participants. Findings indicated significant differences between groups, irrespective of emotional expression, in the early attentional stage (N1), which was altered in mTBI. The two groups showed similar perceptual integration of facial features (N170), with greater amplitude for fearful facial expressions in the right hemisphere. At a higher-level emotional discrimination stage (N2), both groups demonstrated preferential processing for fear as compared to happiness and neutrality. These findings suggest a reduced early selective attentional processing following mTBI, but no impact on the perceptual and higher-level cognitive processes stages. This study contributes to further improving our comprehension of attentional versus emotional recognition following a mild TBI.

Keywords: emotions; event related potentials; facial expressions; mild traumatic brain injury.