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Brain Cogn. 2009 Aug;70(3):247-52. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2009.02.009. Epub 2009 Mar 31.

Empathy and emotion recognition in semantic dementia: a case report.

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IRCCS San Giovanni di Dio - Fatebenefratelli, Via Piastroni, 4 25125 Brescia, Italy.


Recent studies have demonstrated that patients suffering from frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) show impairments in empathy and emotional processing. In this study, we examined two different aspects of these abilities in a patient with semantic dementia (SD), a variant of FTLD. The first aspect was the assessment of the cognitive and emotional components of empathy through the Interpersonal Reactivity Index. The second was the naming and comprehension of emotions using the Ekman 60 Faces Test. The patient's emotion word knowledge was spared and the emotional aspects of empathy preserved. Conversely, the patient performed below average for all of the basic emotions when an emotion word had to be matched with a picture. When picture-to-picture matching was tested, however, the patient was able to recognize happiness. This case is a good example of a dissociation of covert and overt emotional functioning in SD. Results are discussed in terms of the impaired empathic behavior and emotional functioning in FTLD.

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