Primary empathy deficits in frontotemporal dementia.
ABSTRACT: Loss of empathy is an early central symptom and diagnostic criterion of the behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD). Although changes in empathy are evident and strongly affect the social functioning of bvFTD patients, few studies have directly investigated this issue by means of experimental paradigms. The current study assessed multiple components of empathy (affective, cognitive and moral) in bvFTD patients. We also explored whether the loss of empathy constitutes a primary deficit of bvFTD or whether it is explained by impairments in executive functions (EF) or other social cognition domains. Thirty-seven bvFTD patients with early/mild stages of the disease and 30 healthy control participants were assessed with a task that involves the perception of intentional and accidental harm. Participants were also evaluated on emotion recognition, theory of mind (ToM), social norms knowledge and several EF domains. BvFTD patients presented deficits in affective, cognitive and moral aspects of empathy. However, empathic concern was the only aspect primarily affected in bvFTD that was neither related nor explained by deficits in EF or other social cognition domains. Deficits in the cognitive and moral aspects of empathy seem to depend on EF, emotion recognition and ToM. Our findings highlight the importance of using tasks depicting real-life social scenarios because of their greater sensitivity in the assessment of bvFTD. Moreover, our results contribute to the understanding of primary and intrinsic empathy deficits of bvFTD and have important theoretical and clinical implications.
Project description:Executive function (EF) and theory of mind (ToM) are key cognitive skills for socio-emotional adjustment. Executive function develops considerably between 3 and 7 years of age, and fosters the development of social cognition skills such as ToM. Studies with adults have shown a link between EF and prejudice, as well as between empathy and prejudice. Moreover, the relationship between EF, cognitive and affective ToM and prejudice has barely been studied in children. In this study, we aimed at examining the relationship between individual differences in EF, cognitive and affective ToM and prejudice toward the Romany ethnic minority. We expected a positive association between EF and ToM skills, and a negative association between EF and prejudice. We also predicted a negative association between ToM and prejudice. A total of 86 preschool (5-6 years old, N = 43) and third-grade (8-9 years old, N = 43) children participated in the study. Results showed a negative relationship between EF and prejudice, as well as between affective ToM and prejudice, after controlling for intelligence. Moreover, we found that EF significantly predicted prejudice. Exploratory correlational analyses suggested age-related differences in the EF skills underlying prejudice regulation. These findings suggest a distinctive contribution of cognitive and affective components of ToM to prejudice, and highlight the central role of EF in social behavior regulation.
Project description:RATIONALE:Hypothetical moral dilemmas, pitting characteristically utilitarian and non-utilitarian outcomes against each other, have played a central role in investigations of moral decision-making. Preferences for utilitarian over non-utilitarian responses have been explained by two contrasting hypotheses; one implicating increased deliberative reasoning, and the other implicating diminished harm aversion. In recent field experiments, these hypotheses have been investigated using alcohol intoxication to impair both social and cognitive functioning. These studies have found increased utilitarian responding, arguably as a result of alcohol impairing affective empathy. OBJECTIVES:The present research expands existing investigations by examining the acute effects of alcohol on affective empathy and subsequent moral judgments in traditional vignettes and moral actions in virtual reality, as well as physiological responses in moral dilemmas. METHODS:Participants (N?=?48) were administered either a placebo or alcohol in one of two dosages; low or moderate. Both pre- and post intervention, participants completed a moral action and moral judgment task alongside behavioural measures of affective empathy. RESULTS:Higher dosages of alcohol consumption resulted in inappropriate empathic responses to facial displays of emotion, mirroring responses of individuals high in trait psychopathy, but empathy for pain was unaffected. Whilst affective empathy was influenced by alcohol consumption in a facial responding task, both moral judgments and moral actions were unaffected. CONCLUSIONS:These results suggest that facets, beyond or in addition to deficits in affective empathy, might influence the relationship between alcohol consumption and utilitarian endorsements.
Project description:Deficits in theory of mind (ToM) are common after neurological insult acquired in the first and second decade of life, however the contribution of large-scale neural networks to ToM deficits in children with brain injury is unclear. Using paediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a model, this study investigated the sub-acute effect of paediatric traumatic brain injury on grey-matter volume of three large-scale, domain-general brain networks (the Default Mode Network, DMN; the Central Executive Network, CEN; and the Salience Network, SN), as well as two domain-specific neural networks implicated in social-affective processes (the Cerebro-Cerebellar Mentalizing Network, CCMN and the Mirror Neuron/Empathy Network, MNEN). We also evaluated prospective structure-function relationships between these large-scale neural networks and cognitive, affective and conative ToM. 3D T1- weighted magnetic resonance imaging sequences were acquired sub-acutely in 137 children [TBI: n?=?103; typically developing (TD) children: n?=?34]. All children were assessed on measures of ToM at 24-months post-injury. Children with severe TBI showed sub-acute volumetric reductions in the CCMN, SN, MNEN, CEN and DMN, as well as reduced grey-matter volumes of several hub regions of these neural networks. Volumetric reductions in the CCMN and several of its hub regions, including the cerebellum, predicted poorer cognitive ToM. In contrast, poorer affective and conative ToM were predicted by volumetric reductions in the SN and MNEN, respectively. Overall, results suggest that cognitive, affective and conative ToM may be prospectively predicted by individual differences in structure of different neural systems-the CCMN, SN and MNEN, respectively. The prospective relationship between cerebellar volume and cognitive ToM outcomes is a novel finding in our paediatric brain injury sample and suggests that the cerebellum may play a role in the neural networks important for ToM. These findings are discussed in relation to neurocognitive models of ToM. We conclude that detection of sub-acute volumetric abnormalities of large-scale neural networks and their hub regions may aid in the early identification of children at risk for chronic social-cognitive impairment.
Project description:In 2009, inclusions containing the fused in sarcoma (FUS) protein were identified as a third major molecular class of pathology underlying the behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) syndrome. Due to the low prevalence of FUS pathology, few clinical descriptions have been published and none provides information about specific social-emotional deficits despite evidence for severe behavioral manifestations in this disorder. We evaluated a patient with bvFTD due to FUS pathology using a comprehensive battery of cognitive and social- emotional tests. A structural MRI scan and genetic tests for tau, progranulin, and FUS mutations were also performed. The patient showed preserved general cognitive functioning and superior working memory, but severe deficits in emotion attribution, sensitivity to punishment, and diminished capacity for interpersonal warmth and empathy. The gray matter atrophy pattern corresponded to this focal deficit profile, with preservation of dorsolateral fronto-parietal regions associated with executive functioning but severe damage to right worse than left frontoinsula, temporal pole, subgenual anterior cingulate, medial orbitofrontal cortex, amygdala, and caudate. This patient demonstrates the striking focality associated with FUS neuropathology in patients with bvFTD.
Project description:The study of moral emotions (i.e. Schadenfreude and envy) is critical to understand the ecological complexity of everyday interactions between cognitive, affective, and social cognition processes. Most previous studies in this area have used correlational imaging techniques and framed Schadenfreude and envy as unified and monolithic emotional domains. Here, we profit from a relevant neurodegeneration model to disentangle the brain regions engaged in three dimensions of Schadenfreude and envy: deservingness, morality, and legality. We tested a group of patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), patients with Alzheimer's disease, as a contrastive neurodegeneration model, and healthy controls on a novel task highlighting each of these dimensions in scenarios eliciting Schadenfreude and envy. Compared with the Alzheimer's disease and control groups, patients with bvFTD obtained significantly higher scores on all dimensions for both emotions. Correlational analyses revealed an association between envy and Schadenfreude scores and greater deficits in social cognition, inhibitory control, and behaviour disturbances in bvFTD patients. Brain anatomy findings (restricted to bvFTD and controls) confirmed the partially dissociable nature of the moral emotions' experiences and highlighted the importance of socio-moral brain areas in processing those emotions. In all subjects, an association emerged between Schadenfreude and the ventral striatum, and between envy and the anterior cingulate cortex. In addition, the results supported an association between scores for moral and legal transgression and the morphology of areas implicated in emotional appraisal, including the amygdala and the parahippocampus. By contrast, bvFTD patients exhibited a negative association between increased Schadenfreude and envy across dimensions and critical regions supporting social-value rewards and social-moral processes (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, angular gyrus and precuneus). Together, this study provides lesion-based evidence for the multidimensional nature of the emotional experiences of envy and Schadenfreude. Our results offer new insights into the mechanisms subsuming complex emotions and moral cognition in neurodegeneration. Moreover, this study presents the exacerbation of envy and Schadenfreude as a new potential hallmark of bvFTD that could impact in diagnosis and progression.
Project description:Psychopathic individuals display a chronic and flagrant disregard for the welfare of others through their callous and manipulative behavior. Historically, this behavior is thought to result from deficits in social-affective processing. However, we show that at least some psychopathic behaviors may be rooted in a cognitive deficit, specifically an inability to automatically take another person's perspective. Unlike prior studies that rely solely on controlled theory of mind (ToM) tasks, we employ a task that taps into automatic ToM processing. Controlled ToM processes are engaged when an individual intentionally considers the perspective of another person, whereas automatic ToM processes are engaged when an individual unintentionally represents the perspective of another person. In a sample of incarcerated offenders, we find that psychopathic individuals are equally likely to show response interference under conditions of controlled ToM, but lack a common signature of automatic ToM known as altercentric interference. We also demonstrate that the magnitude of this dysfunction in altercentric interference is correlated with real-world callous behaviors (i.e., number of assault charges). These findings suggest that psychopathic individuals have a diminished propensity to automatically think from another's perspective, which may be the cognitive root of their deficits in social functioning and moral behavior.
Project description:<h4>Objective</h4>To quantify the magnitude of deficits in theory of mind (ToM) and facial emotion recognition among patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) relative to healthy controls.<h4>Methods</h4>An electronic database search of Ovid MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and Embase was conducted from inception to April 1, 2016. Eligible studies were original research articles published in peer-reviewed journals that examined ToM or facial emotion recognition among patients with a diagnosis of MS and a healthy control comparison group. Data were independently extracted by 2 authors. Effect sizes were calculated using Hedges g.<h4>Results</h4>Twenty-one eligible studies were identified assessing ToM (12 studies) and/or facial emotion recognition (13 studies) among 722 patients with MS and 635 controls. Deficits in both ToM (g = -0.71, 95% confidence interval [CI] -0.88 to -0.55, p < 0.001) and facial emotion recognition (g = -0.64, 95% CI -0.81 to -0.47, p < 0.001) were identified among patients with MS relative to healthy controls. The largest deficits were observed for visual ToM tasks and for the recognition of negative facial emotional expressions. Older age predicted larger emotion recognition deficits. Other cognitive domains were inconsistently associated with social cognitive performance.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Social cognitive deficits are an overlooked but potentially important aspect of cognitive impairment in MS with potential prognostic significance for social functioning and quality of life. Further research is required to clarify the longitudinal course of social cognitive dysfunction, its association with MS disease characteristics and neurocognitive impairment, and the MS-specific neurologic damage underlying these deficits.
Project description:<h4>Introduction</h4>Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) is associated with abnormal emotion recognition and moral processing.<h4>Methods</h4>We assessed emotion detection, discrimination, matching, selection, and categorization as well as judgments of nonmoral, moral impersonal, moral personal low- and high-conflict scenarios.<h4>Results</h4>bvFTD patients gave more utilitarian responses on low-conflict personal moral dilemmas. There was a significant correlation between a facial emotion processing measure derived through principal component analysis and utilitarian responses on low-conflict personal scenarios in the bvFTD group (controlling for MMSE-score and syntactic abilities). Voxel-based morphometric multiple regression analysis in the bvFTD group revealed a significant association between the proportion of utilitarian responses on personal low-conflict dilemmas and gray matter volume in ventromedial prefrontal areas (<i>p</i><sub>height</sub> < .0001). In addition, there was a correlation between utilitarian responses on low-conflict personal scenarios in the bvFTD group and resting-state fractional Amplitude of Low Frequency Fluctuations (fALFF) in the anterior insula (<i>p</i><sub>height</sub> < .005).<h4>Conclusions</h4>The results underscore the importance of emotions in moral cognition and suggest a common basis for deficits in both abilities, possibly related to reduced experience of emotional sensations. At the neural level abnormal moral cognition in bvFTD is related to structural integrity of the medial prefrontal cortex and functional characteristics of the anterior insula. The present findings provide a common basis for emotion recognition and moral reasoning and link them with areas in the default mode and salience network.
Project description:The neuropathology of Parkinson's disease (PD) involves the frontal-subcortical circuit, an area responsible for processing affective theory of mind (ToM). Patients with PD are expected to experience deficits in the affective ToM. This study aims to investigate whether the ability to infer emotion in others is affected in either young-onset Parkinson's disease (YOPD) or middle-onset PD (MOPD) patients and to test whether the impairments in affective ToM are associated with the motor symptoms. The affective ToM, global mental abilities, and clinical symptoms were assessed in a total of 107 MOPD, 30 YOPD, and 30 normal controls (NCs). The MOPD patients exhibited deficits in affective ToM to the negative and neutral valences, when compared to the participants in the NCs and YOPD group. By conducting gender-stratified analysis, the deficits in affective ToM was only found in female participants. After adjusting for demographic variables, the multiple linear regression model revealed that affective ToM predicted motor symptoms, especially in female MOPD patients. The present study may aid in the development of medical care programs by advocating for a more comprehensive therapeutic plan that includes continuous disease progression monitoring and social skills training for female MOPD patients or their caregivers.
Project description:BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE:Behavioural changes after stroke might be explained by social cognition impairments. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether performances on social cognition tests (including emotion recognition, Theory of Mind (ToM), empathy and behaviour regulation) were associated with behavioural deficits (as measured by proxy ratings) in a group of patients with relatively mild stroke. METHODS:Prospective cohort study in which 119 patients underwent neuropsychological assessment with tests for social cognition (emotion recognition, ToM, empathy, and behaviour regulation) 3-4 years post stroke. Test scores were compared with scores of 50 healthy controls. Behavioural problems were assessed with the Dysexecutive Questionnaire (DEX) self rating and proxy rating scales. Pearson correlations were used to determine the relationship between the social cognition measures and DEX scores. RESULTS:Patients performed significantly worse on emotion recognition, ToM and behaviour regulation tests than controls. Mean DEX-self score did not differ significantly from the mean DEX-proxy score. DEX-proxy ratings correlated with tests for emotion recognition, empathy, and behavioural regulation (lower scores on these items were associated with more problems on the DEX-proxy scale). CONCLUSIONS:Social cognition impairments are present in the long term after stroke, even in a group of mildly affected stroke patients. Most of these impairments also turned out to be associated with a broad range of behavioural problems as rated by proxies of the patients. This strengthens the proposal that social cognition impairments are part of the underlying mechanism of behavioural change. Since tests for social cognition can be administered in an early stage, this would allow for timely identification of patients at risk for behavioural problems in the long term.