Recognition of emotions conveyed by facial expression and body postures in myotonic dystrophy (DM)

Sabrina Lenzoni*, Virginia Bozzoni, Francesca Burgio, Beatrice de Gelder, Alexandra Wennberg, Annalisa Botta, Elena Pegoraro, Carlo Semenza

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


INTRODUCTION: Neuromuscular diseases may be of neuropsychological interest insofar as they may affect representations based on embodied cognition theories. Previous studies have shown impaired ability to recognize facial emotions and an association between facial emotion recognition and visuospatial abilities in myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) patients. Here we examined the ability of both DM1 and DM2 patients to recognize emotions expressed by body postures and its relation, and their association with cognitive performance.

METHODS: Participants included 34 DM1 patients, 8 DM2 patients, and 24 healthy control subjects. Emotional recognition ability was assessed through two computerized matching tasks (face and bodies). A neuropsychological battery was used to measure cognition in three domains and global cognition. We used univariate and adjusted linear regression models to investigate the association between cognition and emotion recognition performance.

RESULTS: DM patients (combined DM1 and DM2) performed worse on emotional facial expression (p = .006) and body posture (p = .004) accuracy measures than healthy controls. In linear regression models, DM patients' facial expression accuracy was associated with executive function (p = .013) and visuospatial (p < .001) z-scores. Body posture accuracy was associated with visuospatial (p = .001) and memory (p = .012) z-scores. There were no associations among controls or between cognition and reaction time.

DISCUSSION: These findings suggest that impaired emotional recognition among DM patients is also extended to emotions conveyed by body postures. Consistent with embodied cognition theories, people affected in their body and its movement may have impaired sensorimotor representation in ways that have yet to be fully understood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-66
Number of pages9
Early online date19 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Embodied cognition
  • Emotion recognition
  • Myotonic dystrophy
  • Neuromuscular diseases
  • TYPE-1 DM1


Dive into the research topics of 'Recognition of emotions conveyed by facial expression and body postures in myotonic dystrophy (DM)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this