ObjectiveConsiderable research indicates that individuals with dementia have deficits in the ability to recognize emotion in other people. The present study examined ability to detect emotional qualities of objects.
MethodFifty-two patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), 20 patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD), 18 patients awaiting surgery for intractable epilepsy, and 159 healthy controls completed a newly developed test of ability to recognize emotional qualities of art (music and paintings), and pleasantness in simple sensory stimuli (tactile, olfactory, auditory), and to make aesthetic judgments (geometric shapes, room décor). A subset of participants also completed a test of ability to recognize emotions in other people.
ResultsPatients with FTD showed a marked deficit in ability to recognize the emotions conveyed in art, compared with both healthy individuals and patients with AD (relative to controls, deficits in patients with AD only approached significance). This deficit remained robust after controlling for FTD patients' ability to recognize pleasantness in simple sensory stimuli, make aesthetic judgments, identify odors, and identify emotions in other people. Neither FTD nor AD patients showed deficits in recognizing pleasant sensory stimuli or making aesthetic judgments. Exploratory analysis of patients with epilepsy revealed no deficits in any of these domains.
ConclusionPatients with FTD (but not AD) showed a significant, specific deficit in ability to interpret emotional messages in art, echoing FTD-related deficits in recognizing emotions in other people. This finding adds to our understanding of the impact these diseases have on the lives of patients and their caregivers. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).