The groups differed significantly with respect to brain activation during interpretation of images reflecting fear, disgust, and sadness. The groups did not differ significantly in the degree of brain activation in response to anger.
The two groups demonstrated similar speed and accuracy in their judgments of emotional intensity, suggesting the differences in performance "reflect different functional approaches to decoding the emotional intensity of human facial expressions taken by alcohol(Drug information on alcohol)ics and controls," the authors stated.
The brain region that showed the greatest blunting of response in the alcoholic patients was the rostral affective division of the anterior cingulate cortex. Some evidence suggests this brain region might be specialized for higher-order cognitive evaluation and decision making related to affective stimuli, the authors noted.
Available evidence also suggests that alcoholics' chronic deficit in social interaction and communication might be caused in part by a diminished ability to interpret the emotional state of others.