Emotional processing (EP) is crucial for the elaboration and implementation of adaptive social strategies. EP is also necessary for the expression of social cognition and behavior (SCB) patterns. It is well-known that war contexts induce socio-emotional atypical functioning, in particular for those who participate in combats. Thus, ex-combatants represent an ideal non-clinical population to explore EP modulation and to evaluate its relation with SCB. The aim of this study was to explore EP and its relation with SCB dimensions such as empathy, theory of mind and social skills in a sample of 50 subjects, of which 30 were ex-combatants from illegally armed groups in Colombia, and 20 controls without combat experience. We adapted an Emotional Recognition Task for faces and words and synchronized it with electroencephalographic recording. Ex-combatants presented with higher assertion skills and showed more pronounced brain responses to faces than Controls. They did not show the bias toward anger observed in control participants whereby the latter group was more likely to misclassify neutral faces as angry. However, ex-combatants showed an atypical word valence processing. That is, words with different emotions yielded no differences in N170 modulations. SCB variables were successfully predicted by neurocognitive variables. Our results suggest that in ex-combatants the links between EP and SCB functions are reorganized. This may reflect neurocognitive modulations associated to chronic exposure to war experiences.
- emotional processing
- social cognition