Psychophysiology of Emotion in Alzheimer's Disease

  • Kaszniak, Alfred W (PI)

Project: Research project

Grant Details


The long-term goal of this research is to assess emotion processing abilities of individuals with Dementia of the Alzheimer Type (DAT). While much is now known about the cognitive deficits associated with DAT, relatively little is known about how the disease process might affect emotion-related experiences and behaviors. Many have observed that persons with DAT display changes in emotionality, including suspiciousness, agitation, and irritability, and these changes contribute in part to significant caregiver distress. However, several clinicians have made recommendations regarding how best to communicate with persons with DAT after language abilities with deteriorated, and these recommendations have including enlisting the use of emotion expression, which is assumed to remain relatively intact. There exists insufficient evidence to support the notion that emotion cue processing is preserved in DAT. What work has been done in this has resulted in conflicting conclusions regarding the abilities of individuals with DAT to process emotional information. The objective of the proposed research is to evaluate the emotion processing abilities of persons with DAT by utilizing psychophysiological and self-report measures of emotion while viewing and hearing emotion eliciting stimuli. The psychophysiological measures will include electromyogram recordings of corrugator supercillii, zygomaticus major, and orbicularis oculi muscle groups as well as skin conductance responses. Orbicularis oculi activity will be recorded to evaluate emotion-related startle reflex modulation. Self- report of emotional experience will be obtained with the Self- Assessment Manikin (SAM). Our hypotheses are that individuals with DAT will: 1) exhibit alterations in the processing of emotional information, evidenced by an attenuation of the emotion modulation of the eye-blink startle reflex response; 2) display alterations in the facial expression of emotions, with a reduction in positive emotional expressions and an increase in negative emotional expressions; 3) exhibit reduced emotion-related SCR; and 4) rate their subjective experiences of emotion similarly to the control group. The findings will provide for a better overall understanding of the experience of individuals with DAT, inform the literature on emotion-based communication with persons with DAT, and further elucidate potentials areas of concern for caregivers. This study will establish whether this technique is a valid means for measuring emotion in DAT, and will pave the way for future investigations of neural correlates of emotional processes.
Effective start/end date5/8/023/31/04


  • National Institutes of Health: $74,205.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $75,750.00


  • Medicine(all)


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