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Facial mimicry, facial emotion recognition and alexithymia in post-traumatic stress disorder


Passardi, Sandra; Peyk, Peter; Rufer, Michael; Wingenbach, Tanja S H; Pfaltz, Monique C (2019). Facial mimicry, facial emotion recognition and alexithymia in post-traumatic stress disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 122:103436.

Abstract

Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) show abnormalities in higher-order emotional processes, including emotion regulation and recognition. However, automatic facial responses to observed facial emotion (facial mimicry) has not yet been investigated in PTSD. Furthermore, whereas deficits in facial emotion recognition have been reported, little is known about contributing factors. We thus investigated facial mimicry and potential effects of alexithymia and expressive suppression on facial emotion recognition in PTSD. Thirty-eight PTSD participants, 43 traumatized and 33 non-traumatized healthy controls completed questionnaires assessing alexithymia and expressive suppression. Facial electromyography was measured from the muscles zygomaticus major and corrugator supercilii during a facial emotion recognition task. Corrugator activity was increased in response to negative emotional expressions compared to zygomaticus activity and vice versa for positive emotions, but no significant group differences emerged. Individuals with PTSD reported greater expressive suppression and alexithymia than controls, but only levels of alexithymia predicted lower recognition of negative facial expressions. While automatic facial responses to observed facial emotion seem to be intact in PTSD, alexithymia, but not expressive suppression, plays an important role in facial emotion recognition of negative emotions. If replicated, future research should evaluate whether successful interventions for alexithymia improve facial emotion recognition abilities.

Abstract

Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) show abnormalities in higher-order emotional processes, including emotion regulation and recognition. However, automatic facial responses to observed facial emotion (facial mimicry) has not yet been investigated in PTSD. Furthermore, whereas deficits in facial emotion recognition have been reported, little is known about contributing factors. We thus investigated facial mimicry and potential effects of alexithymia and expressive suppression on facial emotion recognition in PTSD. Thirty-eight PTSD participants, 43 traumatized and 33 non-traumatized healthy controls completed questionnaires assessing alexithymia and expressive suppression. Facial electromyography was measured from the muscles zygomaticus major and corrugator supercilii during a facial emotion recognition task. Corrugator activity was increased in response to negative emotional expressions compared to zygomaticus activity and vice versa for positive emotions, but no significant group differences emerged. Individuals with PTSD reported greater expressive suppression and alexithymia than controls, but only levels of alexithymia predicted lower recognition of negative facial expressions. While automatic facial responses to observed facial emotion seem to be intact in PTSD, alexithymia, but not expressive suppression, plays an important role in facial emotion recognition of negative emotions. If replicated, future research should evaluate whether successful interventions for alexithymia improve facial emotion recognition abilities.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Klinik für Konsiliarpsychiatrie und Psychosomatik
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Clinical Psychology
Health Sciences > Psychiatry and Mental Health
Uncontrolled Keywords:Experimental and Cognitive Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Psychiatry and Mental health, Alexithymia; Expressive suppression; Facial emotion recognition; Facial mimicry; Posttraumatic stress disorder
Language:English
Date:1 November 2019
Deposited On:03 Feb 2020 16:59
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 13:17
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0005-7967
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2019.103436
PubMed ID:31557692

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