Facial expressions are stimuli with a high arousal effect and the recognition of emotional facial expressions is a perceptual-interpretive process with high social and behavioral importance. In earlier studies we have investigated the changes in the memory for emotions and facial identity in healthy and depressed elderly people. We have found that age was a significant determinant of memory process for emotional stimuli. The recognition for facial identity and emotion declines with advanced age, especially for negative expressions. Memory for facial identity was found to be also impaired in elderly depressed patients. They have exhibited an attentional bias towards negative emotional cues. This may provide a critical performance deficit complicating interpersonal behavior. Antidepressive treatment improved affective and congnitive symptoms significantly.
In a next step we are now investigating cognitive performance deficits for emotional stimuli in patients with Alzheimer's disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). We hypothesize that changes in memory process for emotional stimuli in MCI may represent an early symptom of the neurodegenerative disease.
Prof. Dr. Egemen Savaskan