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I Can Read Her Like a Cook!

Posted Mar 11 2010 2:11pm

I Can't Tell... Are These Kids SAD or SURPRISED by the Sudden Appearance of Death to Ruin Their Picnic?

Now here’s one I’ve never heard of.  Parkinson’s disease makes it harder for us Parkies to correctly read the emotions on another person’s face.  Odd .

Scientists are beginning to find out why people with Parkinson’s disease often feel socially awkward. Parkinson’s patients find it harder to recognize expressions of emotion in other people’s faces and voices, report two studies published by the American Psychological Association.

One of the studies raises questions about how deep brain stimulation, the best available treatment for patients who no longer respond to medication, more strongly affects the recognition of fear and sadness.

Seems that a subset of us who have had the brain-piercing tend to mistake the expression of “fear” and “sadness” for something else — like “surprise.”

I guess that’s why Gail always looks so “surprised”.

Patients in the surgical group were implanted with stimulators, electrical devices that prod the brain’s subthalamic nucleus, a small, lens-shaped structure, to normalize the nerve signals that control movement. This nucleus is part of the basal ganglia system, which is thought to integrate movement, cognition and emotion.

Three months after treatment, only the patients with stimulators not the drug-treated patients or the healthy controls were significantly worse at recognizing fear and sadness. Patients with stimulators confused those expressions with others, such as surprise, or even no emotion. Medicated patients and healthy controls were either accurate about fear and sadness or occasionally mistook them for other negative emotions, such as disgust.

“Having Parkinson’s predisposes an individual to errors in emotion recognition,” said Gray. “The research in France, along with previous studies, indicates that deep-brain stimulation produces an even more severe deficit.”

Why would treating a movement disorder affect the perception of emotions? Implants affect a part of the brain that reaches across functions, so the authors suggested that the same electrical stimulation that calms over-excited motor activity may also somehow inhibit emotional processing.

Probably a good idea to keep me away from funerals and such… I might mistake all the sadness for a “surprise party” and ask when the stripper is gonna pop out of the casket.


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