OBJECTIVE: Emotional difficulties are common in functional movement disorders (FMD), yet their contribution to the disease remains unclear. We explored the potential role of emotional difficulties as risk and maintaining factors of FMD by looking at the effect of emotions on attention. METHOD: The dot-probe task was used to investigate attentional biases induced by emotional faces in 25 patients with FMD and 25 healthy controls (HC). A pair of faces, one emotional (happy, angry, sad) and the other neutral, was displayed on a monitor to either the left or the right side of a central fixation cross. The face disappeared and a dot was flashed in place of one of the faces. Participants had to indicate the location of the dot. All participants completed the Toronto Alexithymia Scale. Psychological assessment of 23 patients also involved the Short Form Health Survey, the Hamilton Anxiety and the Hamilton Depression Rating Scales. RESULTS: A general attentional bias away from emotional faces was noted for the FMD group compared to the HC. A more fine-tuned analysis revealed an attentional bias specifically away from sad faces for the FMD. CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest a specific effect of emotions on attention in FMD that likely involves avoidance of sadness. Since this was not related to alexithymia or mood, we excluded these factors in explaining the results. Attentional bias away from sad faces correlated with general health, suggesting that avoidance of sadness might contribute to the perception of a better general health status in FMD. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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