Alexithymia is characterized by impairments in emotion processing, frequently linked to facial expressions of emotion. The eye-region conveys information necessary for emotion processing. It has been demonstrated that alexithymia is associated with reduced attention to the eyes, but little is known regarding the cognitive and electrophysiological mechanisms underlying emotive eye-region processing in alexithymia. Here, we recorded behavioral and electrophysiological responses of individuals with alexithymia (ALEX; n = 25) and individuals without alexithymia (NonALEX; n = 23) while they viewed intact and eyeless faces with angry and sad expressions during a dual-target rapid serial visual presentation task. Results showed different eye-region focuses and differentiating N1 responses between intact and eyeless faces to anger and sadness in NonALEX, but not in ALEX, suggesting deficient perceptual processing of the eye-region in alexithymia. Reduced eye-region focus and smaller differences in frontal alpha asymmetry in response to sadness between intact and eyeless faces were observed in ALEX than NonALEX, indicative of impaired affective processing of the eye-region in alexithymia. These findings highlight perceptual and affective abnormalities of emotive eye-region processing in alexithymia. Our results contribute to understanding the neuropsychopathology of alexithymia and alexithymia-related disorders.
- frontal alpha asymmetry (FAA)
- two-stage model of facial expression processing
- FACIAL EXPRESSION
- EARLY FACE