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Parkinson's Disease



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Difficulty with emotion recognition is increasingly being recognized as a symptom of Parkinson's disease. Most research into this area contends that progressive cognitive decline accompanying the disease is to be blamed. However, facial mimicry (i.e., the involuntary congruent activation of facial expression muscles upon viewing a particular facial expression) might also play a role and has been relatively understudied in this clinical population. In healthy participants, facial mimicry has been shown to improve recognition of observed emotions, a phenomenon described by embodied simulation theory. Due to motor disturbances, Parkinson's disease patients frequently show reduced emotional expressiveness, which translates into reduced mimicry. Therefore, it is likely that facial mimicry problems in Parkinson's disease contribute at least partly to the emotional recognition deficits that these patients experience and might greatly influence their social cognition abilities and quality of life. The present review aims to highlight the need for further inquiry into the motor mechanisms behind emotional recognition in Parkinson's disease by synthesizing behavioural, physiological, and neuroanatomical evidence.