Dopamine and light: effects on facial emotion recognition.

TitleDopamine and light: effects on facial emotion recognition.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsCawley E, Tippler M, Coupland NJ, Benkelfat C, Boivin DB, Rot MAan Het, Leyton M
JournalJ Psychopharmacol
Date Published2017 Jun 01

Bright light can affect mood states and social behaviours. Here, we tested potential interacting effects of light and dopamine on facial emotion recognition. Participants were 32 women with subsyndromal seasonal affective disorder tested in either a bright (3000 lux) or dim light (10 lux) environment. Each participant completed two test days, one following the ingestion of a phenylalanine/tyrosine-deficient mixture and one with a nutritionally balanced control mixture, both administered double blind in a randomised order. Approximately four hours post-ingestion participants completed a self-report measure of mood followed by a facial emotion recognition task. All testing took place between November and March when seasonal symptoms would be present. Following acute phenylalanine/tyrosine depletion (APTD), compared to the nutritionally balanced control mixture, participants in the dim light condition were more accurate at recognising sad faces, less likely to misclassify them, and faster at responding to them, effects that were independent of changes in mood. Effects of APTD on responses to sad faces in the bright light group were less consistent. There were no APTD effects on responses to other emotions, with one exception: a significant light × mixture interaction was seen for the reaction time to fear, but the pattern of effect was not predicted a priori or seen on other measures. Together, the results suggest that the processing of sad emotional stimuli might be greater when dopamine transmission is low. Bright light exposure, used for the treatment of both seasonal and non-seasonal mood disorders, might produce some of its benefits by preventing this effect.

Alternate JournalJ. Psychopharmacol. (Oxford)
PubMed ID28633582