Emotional experience in patients with clinically isolated syndrome and early multiple sclerosis

T. D. Hälbig, T. Wüstenberg, R. M. Giess, H. Kunte, J. Bellmann-Strobl, K. Ruprecht, F. Paul

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1 Scopus citations


Background and purpose: Evidence suggests that there are changes in the processing of emotional information (EP) in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). It is unclear which functional domains of EP are affected, whether these changes are secondary to other MS-related neuropsychological or psychiatric symptoms and if EP changes are present in early MS. The aim of the study was to investigate EP in patients with early MS (clinically isolated syndrome and early relapsing/remitting MS) and healthy controls (HCs). Methods: A total of 29 patients without neuropsychological or psychiatric deficits and 29 matched HCs were presented with pictures from the International Affective Picture System with negative, positive or neutral content. Participants rated the induced emotion regarding valence and arousal using nine-level Likert scales. A speeded recognition test assessed memory for the emotional stimuli and for the emotional modulation of response time. A subgroup of participants was tested during a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) session. Results: Patients in the MRI subgroup rated the experience induced by pictures with positive or negative emotional content significantly more weakly than HCs. Further, these patients were significantly less aroused when watching the pictures from the International Affective Picture System. There were no effects in the non-MRI subgroup or effects on emotional memory or response times. Conclusions: Emotional processing changes may be present in early MS in the form of flattened emotional experience on both the valence and arousal dimensions. These changes do not appear to be secondary to neuropsychological or psychiatric deficits. The fact that emotional flattening was only found in the MRI setting suggests that EP changes may be unmasked within stressful environments and points to the potential yet underestimated impact of the MRI setting on behavioral outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1537-1545
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Neurology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2020


  • MRI
  • MRI-Setting
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • early Multiple sclerosis
  • emotion
  • emotional
  • emotional experience
  • neuropsychological


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