Background and aim: Despite an extensive literature on cognitive impairments in focal and generalized epilepsy, only a few number of studies specifically explored social cognition disorders in epilepsy syndromes. The aim of our study was to investigate social cognition abilities in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) and in patients with idiopathic generalized epilepsy (IGE). Materials and methods: Thirty-nine patients (21 patients with TLE and 18 patients with IGE) and 21 matched healthy controls (HCs) were recruited. All subjects underwent a basic neuropsychological battery plus two experimental tasks evaluating emotion recognition from facial expression (Ekman-60-Faces test, Ek-60F) and mental state attribution (Story-based Empathy Task, SET). In particular, the latter is a newly developed task that assesses the ability to infer others' intentions (i.e., intention attribution - IA) and emotions (i.e., emotion attribution - EA) compared with a control condition of physical causality (i.e., causal inferences - CI). Results: Compared with HCs, patients with TLE showed significantly lower performances on both social cognition tasks. In particular, all SET subconditions as well as the recognition of negative emotions were significantly impaired in patients with TLE vs. HCs. On the contrary, patients with IGE showed impairments on anger recognition only without any deficit at the SET task. Discussion: Emotion recognition deficits occur in patients with epilepsy, possibly because of a global disruption of a pathway involving frontal, temporal, and limbic regions. Impairments of mental state attribution specifically characterize the neuropsychological profile of patients with TLE in the context of the in-depth temporal dysfunction typical of such patients. Conclusion: Impairments of socioemotional processing have to be considered as part of the neuropsychological assessment in both TLE and IGE in view of a correct management and for future therapeutic interventions.
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