Recognition of Facial Emotion Expressions in Patients with Depressive Disorders: A Functional MRI Study

Tomography. 2023 Feb 27;9(2):529-540. doi: 10.3390/tomography9020043.


Background: The present study evaluated the cortical activation during emotional information recognition.

Methods: The study group included 16 patients with depression, and 16 healthy subjects were enrolled as a control group. Patients received eight weeks of antidepressant therapy. Functional MRI evaluated the cortical activation twice in the patient group and once in the control group. The fMRI task processed the emotional information with face demonstration from the PennCNP test battery.

Results: During the processing of emotional information, patients showed activation in the middle and the inferior frontal gyri, the fusiform gyrus, and the occipital cortex. After treatment, patients showed a significant decrease in the frontal cortex activation for negative face demonstration and no frontal activation for positive emotion recognition. The left superior temporal gyrus activation zone appeared in patients after treatment and in the control group. Healthy subjects showed more intense frontal cortex activation when processing neutral emotions and less when showing happy and sad faces. Activation zones in the amygdala and the insula and deactivation zones in the posterior cingulate cortex were revealed in the controls.

Conclusion: This study confirms the hypothesis that anomalies in the processing of emotional stimuli can be a sign of a depressive disorder.

Keywords: antidepressant therapy; depression; emotion recognition; functional MRI.

MeSH terms

  • Depressive Disorder*
  • Emotions* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Grant support

This research received no external funding.