Autonomic factors do not underlie the elevated self-disgust levels in Parkinson’s disease

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Vasileia Aristotelidou
Marianna Tsatali
Paul G. Overton
Vivas A.B.
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Introduction: Parkinson’s disease (PD) is manifested along with non-motor symptoms such as impairments in basic emotion regulation, recognition and expression. Yet, self-conscious emotion (SCEs) such as self-disgust, guilt and shame are under-investigated. Our previous research indicated that Parkinson patients have elevated levels of self-reported and induced self-disgust. However, the cause of that elevation–whether lower level biophysiological factors, or higher level cognitive factors, is unknown. Methods: To explore the former, we analysed Skin Conductance Response (SCR, measuring sympathetic activity) amplitude and high frequency Heart Rate Variability (HRV, measuring parasympathetic activity) across two emotion induction paradigms, one involving narrations of personal experiences of self-disgust, shame and guilt, and one targeting self-disgust selectively via images of the self. Both paradigms had a neutral condition. Results: Photo paradigm elicited significant changes in physiological responses in patients relative to controls—higher percentages of HRV in the high frequency range but lower SCR amplitudes, with patients to present lower responses compared to controls. In the narration paradigm, only guilt condition elicited significant SCR differences between groups. Conclusions: Consequently, lower level biophysiological factors are unlikely to cause elevated self-disgust levels in Parkinson’s disease, which by implication suggests that higher level cognitive factors may be responsible.
Aristotelidou V, Tsatali M, Overton PG, Vivas AB (2021) Autonomic factors do not underlie the elevated self-disgust levels in Parkinson’s disease. PLoS ONE 16(9): e0256144. https://doi. org/10.1371/journal.pone.0256144