To test the generalized emotional decoding impairment hypothesis in alcoholism.
Cross-sectional behavioural study comparing emotion recognition conveyed by faces, voices, and musical excerpts.
Alcohol Detoxification Unit of Brugmann University Hospital
Twenty-five recently detoxified alcohol dependent patients were compared to 25 normal controls matched for sex, age and educational level.
From faces, voices and musical excerpts, participants were instructed to rate the intensity of several emotions on a scale from 0 for ‘absent’ up to 9 for ‘highly present’. Depression, anxiety, and sustained/selective attention capacities were controlled for.
Alcohol dependent patients were less accurate than controls in identifying the target emotion in faces (P < 0.001), voices (P < 0.001), and musical excerpts (P < 0.001).
Alcohol dependent patients who are completing detoxification are impaired in recognizing emotions conveyed by faces, voices, and music; these results suggest a generalized emotional decoding impairment. Hypothetically, deficits in the fronto-parietal mirror neuron system could link all these disturbances together.
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