Addiction 2013 Jan 20;108(1):80-8. Epub 2012 Aug 20.
Laboratoire de Psychologie Médicale et d'Addictologie, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.
Aim: To test the generalized emotional decoding impairment hypothesis in alcoholism.
Design: Cross-sectional behavioural study comparing emotion recognition conveyed by faces, voices and musical excerpts.
Setting: Alcohol detoxification unit of Brugmann University Hospital.
Participants: Twenty-five recently detoxified alcohol-dependent patients were compared to 25 normal controls matched for sex, age and educational level.
Measurements: From faces, voices and musical excerpts, participants were instructed to rate the intensity of several emotions on a scale from 0 for 'absent' to 9 for 'highly present'. Depression, anxiety and sustained/selective attention capacities were controlled for.
Findings: Alcohol-dependent patients were less accurate than controls in identifying the target emotion in faces (P < 0.001), voices (P < 0.001) and musical excerpts (P < 0.001).
Conclusions: Alcohol-dependent patients who are completing detoxification are impaired in recognizing emotions conveyed by faces, voices and music; these results suggest a generalized emotional decoding impairment. Hypothetically, deficits in the fronto-parietal mirror neurone system could link all these disturbances together.