Diminished neural and cognitive responses to facial expressions of disgust in patients with psoriasis: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study

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Psoriasis produces significant psychosocial disability; however, little is understood about the neurocognitive mechanisms that mediate the adverse consequences of the social stigma associated with visible skin lesions, such as disgusted facial expressions of others. Both the feeling of disgust and the observation of disgust in others are known to activate the insula cortex. We investigated whether the social impact of psoriasis is associated with altered cognitive processing of disgust using (i) a covert recognition of faces task conducted using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and (ii) the facial expression recognition task (FERT), a decision-making task, conducted outside the scanner to assess the ability to recognize overtly different intensities of disgust. Thirteen right-handed male patients with psoriasis and 13 age-matched male controls were included. In the fMRI study, psoriasis patients had significantly (P0.005) smaller signal responses to disgusted faces in the bilateral insular cortex compared with healthy controls. These data were corroborated by FERT, in that patients were less able than controls to identify all intensities of disgust tested. We hypothesize that patients with psoriasis, in this case male patients, develop a coping mechanism to protect them from stressful emotional responses by blocking the processing of disgusted facial expressions. © 2009 The Society for Investigative Dermatology.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2613-2619
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009