The basal ganglia (BG) have repeatedly been linked to emotional speech processing in studies involving patients with neurodegenerative and structural changes of the BG. However, the majority of previous studies did not consider that (i) emotional speech processing entails multiple processing steps, and the possibility that (ii) the BG may engage in one rather than the other of these processing steps. In the present study we investigate three different stages of emotional speech processing (emotional salience detection, meaning-related processing, and identification) in the same patient group to verify whether lesions to the BG affect these stages in a qualitatively different manner. Specifically, we explore early implicit emotional speech processing (probe verification) in an ERP experiment followed by an explicit behavioral emotional recognition task. In both experiments, participants listened to emotional sentences expressing one of four emotions (anger, fear, disgust, happiness) or neutral sentences. In line with previous evidence patients and healthy controls show differentiation of emotional and neutral sentences in the P200 component (emotional salience detection) and a following negative-going brain wave (meaning-related processing). However, the behavioral recognition (identification stage) of emotional sentences was impaired in BG patients, but not in healthy controls. The current data provide further support that the BG are involved in late, explicit rather than early emotional speech processing stages.
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Date Published: 17-March-2011
Author(s): Paulmann S., Ott D., Kotz S.