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Does comorbid anxiety counteract emotion recognition deficits in conduct disorder?

  • Short, Roxanna ML
  • Barke, Edmund
  • Adams, Wendy J
  • Fairchild, Graeme
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2016
DOI: 10.1111/jcpp.12544
Ghent University Institutional Archive
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Background: Previous research has reported altered emotion recognition in both conduct disorder (CD) and anxiety disorders (ADs) - but these effects appear to be of different kinds. Adolescents with CD often show a generalised pattern of deficits, while those with ADs show hypersensitivity to specific negative emotions. Although these conditions often cooccur, little is known regarding emotion recognition performance in comorbid CD+ADs. Here, we test the hypothesis that in the comorbid case, anxiety-related emotion hypersensitivity counteracts the emotion recognition deficits typically observed in CD. Method: We compared facial emotion recognition across four groups of adolescents aged 12-18 years: those with CD alone (n = 28), ADs alone (n = 23), cooccurring CD+ADs (n = 20) and typically developing controls (n = 28). The emotion recognition task we used systematically manipulated the emotional intensity of facial expressions as well as fixation location (eye, nose or mouth region). Results: Conduct disorder was associated with a generalised impairment in emotion recognition; however, this may have been modulated by group differences in IQ. AD was associated with increased sensitivity to low-intensity happiness, disgust and sadness. In general, the comorbid CD+ADs group performed similarly to typically developing controls. Conclusions: Although CD alone was associated with emotion recognition impairments, ADs and comorbid CD+ADs were associated with normal or enhanced emotion recognition performance. The presence of comorbid ADs appeared to counteract the effects of CD, suggesting a potentially protective role, although future research should examine the contribution of IQ and gender to these effects.

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