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See detailAttentional Impairments in Huntington’s Disease: A Specific Deficit for the Executive Conflict
Maurage, Pierre; Heeren, Alexandre; Lahaye, Magali et al

in Neuropsychology (2017), 31(4), 424-436

Objective: Huntington’s disease (HD) is characterized by motor and cognitive impairments including memory, executive, and attentional functions. However, because earlier studies relied on multidetermined ... [more ▼]

Objective: Huntington’s disease (HD) is characterized by motor and cognitive impairments including memory, executive, and attentional functions. However, because earlier studies relied on multidetermined attentional tasks, uncertainty still abounds regarding the differential deficit across attentional subcomponents. Likewise, the evolution of these deficits during the successive stages of HD remains unclear. The present study simultaneously explored 3 distinct networks of attention (alerting, orienting, executive conflict) in preclinical and clinical HD. Method: Thirty-eight HD patients (18 preclinical) and 38 matched healthy controls completed the attention network test, an integrated and theoretically grounded task assessing the integrity of 3 attentional networks. Results: Preclinical HD was not characterized by any attentional deficit compared to controls. Conversely, clinical HD was associated with a differential deficit across the 3 attentional networks under investigation, showing preserved performance for alerting and orienting networks but massive and specific impairment for the executive conflict network. This indexes an impaired use of executive control to resolve the conflict between task-relevant stimuli and interfering task-irrelevant ones. Conclusion: Clinical HD does not lead to a global attentional deficit but rather to a specific impairment for the executive control of attention. Moreover, the absence of attentional deficits in preclinical HD suggests that these deficits are absent at the initial stages of the disease. In view of their impact on everyday life, attentional deficits should be considered in clinical contexts. Therapeutic programs improving the executive control of attention by neuropsychology and neuromodulation should be promoted. [less ▲]

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See detailDissociating emotional and cognitive empathy in pre-clinical and clinical Huntington's disease.
Maurage, Pierre; Lahaye, Magali; Grynberg, Delphine et al

in Psychiatry research (2016), 237

Huntington's disease (HD) is centrally characterized by motor, neurocognitive and psychiatric symptoms, but impaired emotional decoding abilities have also been reported. However, more complex affective ... [more ▼]

Huntington's disease (HD) is centrally characterized by motor, neurocognitive and psychiatric symptoms, but impaired emotional decoding abilities have also been reported. However, more complex affective abilities are still to be explored, and particularly empathy, which is essential for social relations and is impaired in various psychiatric conditions. This study evaluates empathic abilities and social skills in pre-clinical and clinical HD, and explores the distinction between two empathy sub-components (emotional-cognitive). Thirty-six HD patients (17 pre-clinical) and 36 matched controls filled in the Empathy Quotient Scale, while controlling for psychopathological comorbidities. At the clinical stage of HD, no global empathy impairment was observed but rather a specific deficit for the cognitive sub-component, while emotional empathy was preserved. A deficit was also observed for social skills. Pre-clinical HD was not associated with any empathy deficit. Emotional deficits in clinical HD are thus not limited to basic emotion decoding but extend towards complex interpersonal abilities. The dissociation between impaired cognitive and preserved emotional empathy in clinical HD reinforces the proposal that empathy subtypes are sustained by distinct processes. Finally, these results underline the extent of distinct affective and social impairments in HD and the need to grasp them in clinical contexts. [less ▲]

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