Electrophysiological and behavioural correlates of facial identity and expression perception deficits following a closed head injury /
MetadataShow full item record
A large variety of social signals, such as facial expression and body language, are conveyed in everyday interactions and an accurate perception and interpretation of these social cues is necessary in order for reciprocal social interactions to take place successfully and efficiently. The present study was conducted to determine whether impairments in social functioning that are commonly observed following a closed head injury, could at least be partially attributable to disruption in the ability to appreciate social cues. More specifically, an attempt was made to determine whether face processing deficits following a closed head injury (CHI) coincide with changes in electrophysiological responsivity to the presentation of facial stimuli. A number of event-related potentials (ERPs) that have been linked specifically to various aspects of visual processing were examined. These included the N170, an index of structural encoding ability, the N400, an index of the ability to detect differences in serially presented stimuli, and the Late Positivity (LP), an index of the sensitivity to affective content in visually-presented stimuli. Electrophysiological responses were recorded while participants with and without a closed head injury were presented with pairs of faces delivered in a rapid sequence and asked to compare them on the basis of whether they matched with respect to identity or emotion. Other behavioural measures of identity and emotion recognition were also employed, along with a small battery of standard neuropsychological tests used to determine general levels of cognitive impairment. Participants in the CHI group were impaired in a number of cognitive domains that are commonly affected following a brain injury. These impairments included reduced efficiency in various aspects of encoding verbal information into memory, general slower rate of information processing, decreased sensitivity to smell, and greater difficulty in the regulation of emotion and a limited awareness of this impairment. Impairments in face and emotion processing were clearly evident in the CHI group. However, despite these impairments in face processing, there were no significant differences between groups in the electrophysiological components examined. The only exception was a trend indicating delayed N170 peak latencies in the CHI group (p = .09), which may reflect inefficient structural encoding processes. In addition, group differences were noted in the region of the N100, thought to reflect very early selective attention. It is possible, then, that facial expression and identity processing deficits following CHI are secondary to (or exacerbated by) an underlying disruption of very early attentional processes. Alternately the difficulty may arise in the later cognitive stages involved in the interpretation of the relevant visual information. However, the present data do not allow these alternatives to be distinguished. Nonetheless, it was clearly evident that individuals with CHI are more likely than controls to make face processing errors, particularly for the more difficult to discriminate negative emotions. Those working with individuals who have sustained a head injury should be alerted to this potential source of social monitoring difficulties which is often observed as part of the sequelae following a CHI.