Empathy processes in neurodegenerative diseases: preliminary results in Parkinson
16 slide(s) – English – 2011-09-10
Empathy processes in Parkinson’s disease : preliminary results of a neuropsychological study.
Pauline Narme, Pierre Krystkowiak, Martine Roussel, Harold Mouras1, Olivier Godefroy
Laboratoire de Neurosciences Fonctionnelles et Pathologies, Université Picardie Jules Verne, UFR de médecine, 3 rue des Louvels, 80036 Amiens, France
Service de Neurologie, CHU Nord, Place Victor Pauchet 80000 Amiens, France.
Objective: To assess (1) empathy processes in Parkinson’s disease (PD) using an extensive neuropsychological battery (2) relations between these empathy processes and dysexecutive syndromes in PD.
Introduction: PD is frequently associated with behavioral disorders or emotional disturbances that could affect the social functioning. Empathy, known as a crucial phenomenon in social relationships, would be reduced in PD. At least two dissociable processes are involved : emotional empathy (the automatic contagion) and cognitive empathy (theory of mind abilities –ToM)
Methods: 23 PD patients and 46 age- and education- matched controls were included. All have received an extensive neuropsychological examination including those of behavioral disorders. Empathy was estimated with a scale filled out by caregivers, and with a task assessing empathy for pain . The emotional process was examined by a facial emotion recognition task and the cognitive one by two ToM tasks (“Faux pas » ; « Yoni »).
Results: Patients with PD showed (1) a reduced empathy in everyday life activities (p ≤ 0.005); (2) a facial emotion recognition deficit (p = 0.001), persisting after correction for perceptual abilities, supporting for an emotional empathy impairment; (3) lower performance in the Faux pas task (all p < 0.05) and the Yoni task (for both cognitive and affective ToM items, all p < 0.05), suggesting a cognitive empathy deficit. Nevertheless deficit on the Faux Pas task was attributable to comprehension impairment (p = 0.03). Empathy deficit was observed in 17% of patients, was independent of other cognitive dysfunctions (including cognitive dysexecutive syndrome) but correlated with behavioral disorders in social domains (r = 0.56, p = 0.02).
Conclusion : Patients with PD show impairments in both emotional and cognitive processes of empathy, suggesting a role for basal ganglia and frontostriatal circuitry in empathy. The neuropsychological examination of empathy seems interesting to better understand behavioral disorders in PD, which are frequent, and related to deficit of empathy.