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Visual Behavior, Pupil Dilation, and Ability to Identify Emotions From Facial Expressions After Stroke

  • Maza, Anny1
  • Moliner, Belén2
  • Ferri, Joan2
  • Llorens, Roberto1, 2
  • 1 Neurorehabilitation and Brain Research Group, Instituto de Investigación e Innovación en Bioingeniería, Universitat Politècnica de València, Valencia , (Spain)
  • 2 NEURORHB, Servicio de Neurorrehabilitación de Hospitales Vithas, Valencia , (Spain)
Published Article
Frontiers in Neurology
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Feb 06, 2020
DOI: 10.3389/fneur.2019.01415
PMID: 32116988
PMCID: PMC7016192
PubMed Central


Social cognition is the innate human ability to interpret the emotional state of others from contextual verbal and non-verbal information, and to self-regulate accordingly. Facial expressions are one of the most relevant sources of non-verbal communication, and their interpretation has been extensively investigated in the literature, using both behavioral and physiological measures, such as those derived from visual activity and visual responses. The decoding of facial expressions of emotion is performed by conscious and unconscious cognitive processes that involve a complex brain network that can be damaged after cerebrovascular accidents. A diminished ability to identify facial expressions of emotion has been reported after stroke, which has traditionally been attributed to impaired emotional processing. While this can be true, an alteration in visual behavior after brain injury could also negatively contribute to this ability. This study investigated the accuracy, distribution of responses, visual behavior, and pupil dilation of individuals with stroke while identifying emotional facial expressions. Our results corroborated impaired performance after stroke and exhibited decreased attention to the eyes, evidenced by a diminished time and number of fixations made in this area in comparison to healthy subjects and comparable pupil dilation. The differences in visual behavior reached statistical significance in some emotions when comparing individuals with stroke with impaired performance with healthy subjects, but not when individuals post-stroke with comparable performance were considered. The performance dependence of visual behavior, although not determinant, might indicate that altered visual behavior could be a negatively contributing factor for emotion recognition from facial expressions.

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