Functional neural correlates of facial affect recognition impairment following TBI
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Facial affect recognition deficits following traumatic brain injury (TBI) have been well documented, as has their relationship with impairment in several other cognitive domains. However, little is known about the neurobiological mechanisms underlying affect recognition deficits, in particular mechanisms underlying different aspects of facial affect recognition (e.g., perceptual and interpretive processes). In the current study, 33 adults with moderate-to-severe TBI and 24 demographically matched healthy comparison (HC) participants completed an fMRI facial affect recognition study. While in the scanner, participants were asked to match the affect of a target face to either (a) one of two faces differing in affect (perceptual condition) or (b) one of two written affect labels (interpretative condition). In both groups we found activations in regions typically involved in affect recognition. Our results revealed that in the perceptual condition individuals with TBI tended to activate the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex less than HCs, and within the HC group individuals with higher perceptual affect recognition scores showed higher levels of activation in the same brain region. Individuals with TBI who were specifically impaired at interpretative affect recognition showed less activation than HCs in the right fusiform gyrus. Moreover, in the labeling condition individuals with TBI tended to de-activate medial prefrontal regions less than HCs. A region of interest analysis revealed that individuals with TBI showed significantly less activation than HCs in the FFA for all the contrasts of interest. Our results suggest involvement of several brain regions in facial affect recognition impairment post TBI, and provide neurobiological support for the notion that distinct aspects of facial affect recognition can be differentially impaired following TBI.
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