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Brain Res. 2008 Jan 10;1188:100-11. Epub 2007 Oct 22.

Vocal emotion processing in Parkinson's disease: reduced sensitivity to negative emotions.

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  • 1School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University, MontrĂ©al, Qc, Canada.


To document the impact of Parkinson's disease (PD) on communication and to further clarify the role of the basal ganglia in the processing of emotional speech prosody, this investigation compared how PD patients identify basic emotions from prosody and judge specific affective properties of the same vocal stimuli, such as valence or intensity. Sixteen non-demented adults with PD and 17 healthy control (HC) participants listened to semantically-anomalous pseudo-utterances spoken in seven emotional intonations (anger, disgust, fear, sadness, happiness, pleasant surprise, neutral) and two distinct levels of perceived emotional intensity (high, low). On three separate occasions, participants classified the emotional meaning of the prosody for each utterance (identification task), rated how positive or negative the stimulus sounded (valence rating task), or rated how intense the emotion was expressed by the speaker (intensity rating task). Results indicated that the PD group was significantly impaired relative to the HC group for categorizing emotional prosody and showed a reduced sensitivity to valence, but not intensity, attributes of emotional expressions conveying anger, disgust, and fear. The findings are discussed in light of the possible role of the basal ganglia in the processing of discrete emotions, particularly those associated with negative vigilance, and of how PD may impact on the sequential processing of prosodic expressions.

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