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Neural Regen Res. 2020 Aug;15(8):1518-1525. doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.274342.

Emotion recognition and inhibitory control in manifest and pre-manifest Huntington's disease: evidence from a new Stroop task.

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Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.
Huntington and Rare Diseases Unit, Fondazione IRCCS Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy.


Huntington's disease (HD) is a genetic neurodegenerative disorder that affects not only the motor but also the cognitive domain. In particular, cognitive symptoms such as impaired executive skills and deficits in recognizing other individuals' mental state may emerge many years before the motor symptoms. This study was aimed at testing two cognitive hypotheses suggested by previous research with a new Stroop task created for the purpose: 1) the impairment of emotion recognition in HD is moderated by the emotions' valence, and 2) inhibitory control is impaired in HD. Forty manifest and 20 pre-manifest HD patients and their age- and gender-matched controls completed both the traditional "Stroop Color and Word Test" (SCWT) and the newly created "Stroop Emotion Recognition under Word Interference Task" (SERWIT), which consist in 120 photographs of sad, calm, or happy faces with either congruent or incongruent word interference. On the SERWIT, impaired emotion recognition in manifest HD was moderated by emotion type, with deficits being larger in recognizing sadness and calmness than in recognizing happiness, but it was not moderated by stimulus congruency. On the SCWT, six different interference scores yielded as many different patterns of group effects. Overall our results corroborate the hypothesis that impaired emotion recognition in HD is moderated by the emotions' valence, but do not provide evidence for the hypothesis that inhibitory control is impaired in HD. Further research is needed to learn more about the psychological mechanisms underlying the moderating effect of emotional valence on impaired emotion recognition in HD, and to corroborate the hypothesis that the inhibitory processes involved in Stroop tasks are not impaired in HD. Looking beyond this study, the SERWIT promises to make important contributions to disentangling the cognitive and the psychomotor aspects of neurological disorders. The research was approved by the Ethics Committee of the "Istituto Leonarda Vaccari", Rome on January 24, 2018.


Huntington’s disease; Stroop interference; congruent word interference; emotion recognition; emotional valence; incongruent word interference; inhibitory control

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