Face Perception and Pareidolia Production in Patients With Parkinson's Disease.

Göbel, Nicole; Möller, Jens Carsten; Hollenstein, Nathalie; Binder, Andreas; Oechsner, Matthias; Ide, Jörg; Urwyler, Prabitha; Cazzoli, Dario; Müri, René M. (2021). Face Perception and Pareidolia Production in Patients With Parkinson's Disease. Frontiers in neurology, 12, p. 669691. Frontiers Media S.A. 10.3389/fneur.2021.669691

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In Parkinson's disease (PD) patients, visual misperceptions are a major problem within the non-motor symptoms. Pareidolia, i.e., the tendency to perceive a specific, meaningful image in an ambiguous visual pattern, is a phenomenon that occurs also in healthy subjects. Literature suggests that the perception of face pareidolia may be increased in patients with neurodegenerative diseases. We aimed to examine, within the same experiment, face perception and the production of face pareidolia in PD patients and healthy controls (HC). Thirty participants (15 PD patients and 15 HC) were presented with 47 naturalistic photographs in which faces were embedded or not. The likelihood to perceive the embedded faces was modified by manipulating their transparency. Participants were asked to decide for each photograph whether a face was embedded or not. We found that PD patients were significantly less likely to recognize embedded faces than controls. However, PD patients also perceived faces significantly more often in locations where none were actually present than controls. Linear regression analyses showed that gender, age, hallucinations, and Multiple-Choice Vocabulary Intelligence Test (MWT) score were significant predictors of face pareidolia production in PD patients. Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) was a significant predictor for pareidolia production in PD patients in trials in which a face was embedded in another region [F (1, 13) = 24.4, p = <0.001]. We conclude that our new embedded faces paradigm is a useful tool to distinguish face perception performance between HC and PD patients. Furthermore, we speculate that our results observed in PD patients rely on disturbed interactions between the Dorsal (DAN) and Ventral Attention Networks (VAN). In photographs in which a face is present, the VAN may detect this as a behaviourally relevant stimulus. However, due to the deficient communication with the DAN in PD patients, the DAN would not direct attention to the correct location, identifying a face at a location where actually none is present.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Head Organs and Neurology (DKNS) > Clinic of Neurology
10 Strategic Research Centers > ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research > ARTORG Center - Gerontechnology and Rehabilitation

UniBE Contributor:

Göbel, Nicole; Urwyler-Harischandra, Prabitha; Cazzoli, Dario and Müri, René Martin


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Frontiers Media S.A.




Andrea Stettler

Date Deposited:

22 Sep 2021 10:45

Last Modified:

26 Sep 2021 03:08

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Parkinson's disease embedded face paradigm face perception hallucination misperception non-motor symptoms pareidolia





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