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Neuropsychologia. 2005;43(7):1054-9. Epub 2004 Dec 30.

Fear recognition is impaired by subthalamic nucleus stimulation in Parkinson's disease.

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Clinique Neurologique, Hôpital Pontchaillou, CHU de Rennes, Rue Henri Le Guilloux, 35033 Rennes, France.


Behavioural disturbances such as disorders of mood, apathy or indifference are often observed in Parkinson's disease (PD) patients with chronic high frequency deep brain stimulation of subthalamic nucleus (STN DBS). Neuropsychological modifications causing these adverse events induced by STN DBS remain unknown, even if limbic disturbances are hypothesised. The limbic system supports neural circuits processing emotional information. The aim of this work is to evaluate changes of emotional recognition in PD patients induced by STN DBS. Thirty PD patients were assessed using a computerised paradigm of recognition of emotional facial expressions [Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1976). Pictures of facial affect. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press], 15 before STN DBS and 15 after. The two patients groups were compared to a group of 15 healthy control subjects. One series of 55 pictures of emotional facial expressions was presented to each patient. Patients had to classify the pictures according to seven basic emotions (happiness, sadness, fear, surprise, disgust, anger and no emotion). The intact ability to percept faces was firstly assured using the Benton Recognition Test. Recognition of fear expressions was significantly and selectively reduced in the post-operative group in comparison to both pre-operative and control groups. Our results demonstrate for the first time a selective reduction of recognition of facial expressions of fear by STN DBS. This impairment could be the first neuropsychological marker of a more general limbic dysfunction, thought to be responsible for the behavioural disorders reported after STN DBS.

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