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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02638

Deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus influences facial emotion recognition in patients with Parkinson´s disease: A review

Caroline Wagenbreth1,  Maria Kühne1, Hans- Jochen Heinze1 and  Tino Zaehle1*
  • 1Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, Germany

Parkinson´s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by motor symptoms following dopaminergic depletion in the substantia nigra. Besides motor impairments however, several non-motor detriments can have the potential to considerably impact subjectively perceived quality of life in patients. Particularly emotion recognition of facial expressions has been shown to be affected in PD, and especially the perception of negative emotions like fear, anger or disgust is impaired. While emotion processing generally refers to automatic implicit as well as conscious explicit processing, the focus of most previous studies in PD was on explicit recognition of emotions only, while largely ignoring implicit processing deficits.
Deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus (STN-DBS) is widely accepted as therapeutic measure in the treatment of PD and has been shown to advantageously influence motor problems. Among various concomitant non-motor effects of STN-DBS, modulation of facial emotion recognition under subthalamic stimulation has been investigated in previous studies with rather heterogeneous results. While there seems to be consensus regarding the processing of disgust which significantly deteriorates under STN stimulation, findings concerning emotions like fear or happiness report heterogeneous data and seem to depend on various experimental settings and measurements.
In the present review, we summarized previous investigations focusing on STN-DBS influence on recognition of facial emotional expressions in patients suffering from PD. In a first step, we provide a synopsis of disturbances and problems in facial emotion processing observed in patients with PD. Secondly, we present findings of STN-DBS influence on facial emotion recognition and especially highlight different impacts of stimulation on implicit and explicit emotional processing.

Keywords: DBS (deep brain stimulation), Parkinsons disease (PD), emotional recognition, Facial emotional expression, STN (Subthalamic Nucleus)

Received: 26 Jun 2019; Accepted: 08 Nov 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Wagenbreth, Kühne, Heinze and Zaehle. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Tino Zaehle, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, Magdeburg, 39106, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany,