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Emotional reactivity and awareness of task performance in Alzheimer's disease

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2075-2084
Number of pages10
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012

King's Authors


Lack of awareness about performance in tasks is a common feature of Alzheimer's disease. Nevertheless, clinical anecdotes have suggested that patients may show emotional or behavioural responses to the experience of failure despite reporting limited awareness, an aspect which has been little explored experimentally. The current study investigated emotional reactions to success or failure in tasks despite unawareness of performance in Alzheimer's disease. For this purpose, novel computerised tasks which expose participants to systematic success or failure were used in a group of Alzheimer's disease patients (n=23) and age-matched controls (n=21). Two experiments, the first with reaction time tasks and the second with memory tasks, were carried out, and in each experiment two parallel tasks were used, one in a success condition and one in a failure condition. Awareness of performance was measured comparing participant estimations of performance with actual performance. Emotional reactivity was assessed with a self-report questionnaire and rating of filmed facial expressions. In both experiments the results indicated that, relative to controls, Alzheimer's disease patients exhibited impaired awareness of performance, but comparable differential reactivity to failure relative to success tasks, both in terms of self-report and facial expressions. This suggests that affective valence of failure experience is processed despite unawareness of task performance, which might indicate implicit processing of information in neural pathways bypassing awareness. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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