Diminished Visual Attention to Emotional Faces Is Associated with Poor Emotional Valence Perception in Frontotemporal Dementia


Aim: The current study examined whether visual attention to emotional facial expressions is lower in individuals with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) compared to healthy controls, and whether visual attention to emotional facial expressions is associated with the ability to perceive others’ emotional valence accurately. Methods: Participants with FTD (n = 17) and healthy controls (n = 23) passively viewed pairs of emotional and neutral faces while their visual attention was measured using eye-tracking. A subsample of participants (n = 28) also completed an emotional valence perception task.Results: Individuals with FTD spent less time looking at emotional faces than healthy controls. However, there was no difference in the amount of time individuals with FTD spent looking at neutral faces as compared to healthy controls. In the subsample, less time spent looking at emotional faces (but not neutral faces) was associated with a less accurate perception of others’ emotional valence. Conclusion: Individuals with FTD displayed diminished visual attention to emotional facial expressions compared to healthy controls. Reduced attention towards emotional faces was associated with poorer emotional valence perception. Findings point toward diminished visual attention as potentially relevant for understanding oft-observed impairments in socioemotional functioning in FTD.

Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders