ObjectiveAccording to Pankseppxxxs hierarchical emotion model, emotion processing relies on three functionally and neuroanatomically distinct levels. These levels comprise subcortical networks (primary level), the limbic system (secondary level), and the neocortex (tertiary level) and are suggested to serve differential emotional processing. We aimed to validate and extend previous evidence of discrete and dimensional emotion processing in patient with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME). MethodsWe recorded brain activity of patients with JME and healthy controls in response to lexical decisions to words reflecting the discrete emotion fear and the affective dimension negativity previously suggested to rely on different brain regions and to reflect different levels of processing. In all study participants, we tested verbal cognitive functions, as well as the relationship of psychiatric conditions, seizure types and duration of epilepsy and emotional word processing. ResultsIn support of the hierarchical emotion model, we found an interaction of discrete emotion and affective dimensional processing in the right amygdala likely to reflect secondary level processing. Brain activity related to affective dimensional processing was found in the right inferior frontal gyrus and is suggested to reflect tertiary level processing. Psychiatric conditions, type of seizure nor mono- vs. polytherapy and duration of epilepsy within patients did not have any effect on the processing of emotional words. In addition, no differences in brain activity or response times between patients and controls were observed, despite neuropsychological testing revealed slightly decreased verbal intelligence, verbal fluency and reading speed in patients with JME. SignificanceThese results were interpreted to be in line with the hierarchical emotion model and to highlight the amygdalaxxxs role in processing biologically relevant stimuli, as well as to suggest a semantic foundation of affective dimensional processing in prefrontal cortex. A lack of differences in brain activity of patients with JME and healthy controls in response to the emotional content of words could point to unaffected implicit emotion processing in patients with JME.
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