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CMSC Community News: People with MS may have trouble recognizing emotions

Friday, April 10, 2015   (0 Comments)
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People with MS may have trouble recognizing emotions

-- MS can damage parts of the brain that allow us to recognize emotions in others. It’s a skill we don’t notice, until we lose it. --

It’s something we do without thinking. We look at a face and know instantly if that person is angry or sad or surprised. People with MS may lose this ability. But just as most of us are unaware we have this skill, those with MS are often unaware they have lost it.

People with MS, they tend to know if they have memory problems. They tend to know if their thinking isn’t as fast as it used to be, says Helen Genova, PhD, a research scientist at the Kessler Foundation in West Orange, New Jersey. But this is not a problem they are aware of.

Even many doctors are unaware that MS can affect the ability to recognize emotions, according to Dr. Genova. I think if you walked into a neurologist’s office tomorrow and said are you aware of this, they would probably say no, she says.

Genova and her colleague Jean Lengenfelder, PhD, are working to change that. They are studying the brains of people with MS as they try to identify the six so-called universal emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust. These six emotions are thought to be recognizable by every human being, regardless of culture.

The MS patients are put inside an MRI machine and shown a series of two faces in quick succession. They must decide whether the two faces are showing the same emotion or different ones.

Without the ability to recognize emotions in others, the world is difficult to navigate. Is your spouse sad? Are your children frightened? Is your boss angry? These are things it’s important to know. Although MS patients may not realize they have lost this ability, they often do notice that they are having more interpersonal problems.

Genova and Lengenfelder say they can help these patients improve. They have developed a 12-week training course in which they teach patients how to quickly identify the specific features that characterize each emotion.

For example, downturned lips indicate sadness. Tight lips and tension between the eyebrows indicate anger. Wide-open eyes, raised eyebrows, and an O-shaped mouth indicate surprise. After the training, Genova says, patients score better on the MRI test.

Because most patients are unaware they are having this problem, she says, it’s up to doctors to bring it up. Once they understand the problem, there are a few things they can do, says Genova. No. 1, they shouldn’t isolate themselves… because it’s a use-it-or-lose-it type of thing. The less you are with other people the greater this problem could become.

Check the accompanying video featured at http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/people-with-ms-may-have-trouble-recognizing-emotions/.

Source: Health Matters with Dr. Sanjay Gupta at everydayhealth.com


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