White matter correlates of different aspects of facial affect recognition impairment following traumatic brain injury
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Although facial affect recognition deficits are well documented in individuals with moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), little research has examined the neural mechanisms underlying these impairments. Here, we use diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), specifically the scalars fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), and radial diffusivity (RD), to examine relationships between regional white-matter integrity and two facial affect sub-skills: perceptual affect recognition abilities (measured by an affect matching task) and verbal categorization of facial affect (measured by an affect labeling task). Our results showed that, within the TBI group, higher levels of white-matter integrity in tracts involved in affect recognition (inferior fronto-occipital, inferior longitudinal, and uncinate fasciculi) were associated with better performance on both tasks. Verbal categorization skills were specifically and positively correlated with integrity of the left uncinate fasciculus. Moreover, we observed a striking lateralization effect, with perceptual abilities having an almost exclusive relationship with integrity of right hemisphere tracts, while verbal abilities were associated with both left and right hemisphere integrity. The findings advance our understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie subcomponents of facial affect recognition and lead to different patterns of facial affect recognition impairment in adults with TBI.
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