Recognition of facial emotional expressions and its correlation with cognitive abilities in children with Down syndrome


Psychol. Neurosci.




Down syndrome (DS) is one of the most common chromosomal abnormalities. Delays in cognitive development are found in the first years of life. As years pass, it may turn into intellectual deficiencies that unfold into several aspects, including difficulty recognizing emotional facial expressions. The present study investigated the recognition of six universal facial emotional expressions in a population of children aged 6-11 years who were divided into two groups: DS group and typically developing children (TDC) group. We used the Perception Test of Facial Emotional Expressions (Teste de Percepção de Emoções Faciais; TEPEF) and Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III) and found that children with DS presented alterations in the recognition of expressions of disgust, surprise, and fear, whereas the recognition of happiness, sadness, and anger was maintained at a level comparable to the TDC group. Participants with DS presented significant positive correlations between sadness and Picture completion, Mazes, Arithmetic, Vocabulary, Digits, Verbal IQ, Verbal Comprehension Index, and Working Memory Index. All other facial expressions showed significant negative correlations with the Intelligence Quotient and WISC-III factorial index subtests. Absence of correlations was found among the TEPEF's six facial expressions and Information, Coding, Symbols, and Working Memory Index. The contribution of this study is related to understanding the characteristics of the recognition of facial emotions in children with DS, an important component of social relationships with their peers, schools, and families.

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