Manchester University LogoPeople with psoriasis seem to be less likely to react to looks of disgust by others in contrast to people without the condition. Atleast this is what the scientists from the University of Manchester claim.

Psoriasis is usually known to be a painful dermatological condition which seems to cause lesions and red scaly patches on the skin. Professor Chris Griffiths, world-renowned dermatologist was believed to have led the study.

“Psoriasis has a significant negative impact on the physical and psychological well-being of those affected but little is known about the neurocognitive mechanisms of how patients cope with the adverse social stigma associated with visible skin lesions,” says Dr Elise Kleyn, the dermatologist who carried out this study.

For the purpose of the study, experts used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans in order to compare the brains of approximately 26 men, half of whom appear to have chronic psoriasis. They examined the insular cortex so that they could perhaps see how participants responded to images of disgusted faces. Insular cortex is believed to be a part of the brain which is triggered by both feelings and observations of disgust.

“We had previously shown that psoriasis patients commonly believe that they will be evaluated solely on the basis of their skin and so often avoid social situations they think will be stressful or humiliating as a coping mechanism,” Dr Kleyn adds.

He further stated that, “For this study we wanted to investigate whether the social impact of psoriasis is associated with altered cognitive processing in response to facial expressions of disgust by measuring brain activity in the insular cortex. We found a significantly reduced response in the insular cortex in the patients compared with the control volunteers when observing disgusted faces, but also that patients were half as likely to recognize that a face was expressing disgust. This was not the case for other facial expressions, such as fear.

The findings revealed that the volunteers with psoriasis seem to have a much weaker response in their insular cortex as compared to the healthy volunteers. This suggested that they may perhaps have developed a coping mechanism in order to protect themselves from adverse emotional responses to their condition by others.

Dr Kleyn added that, “We believe that other stigmatizing conditions, such as severe acne or scarring, may elicit similar findings, although further research is clearly needed. We think the insights provided by this study, however, could generate new strategies for managing stigmatizing skin diseases.”

Experts were of the opinion that one explanation for their findings is that psoriasis patients develop a coping mechanism in order to protect them from stressful emotional responses via blocking the processing of disgusted facial expressions seen in others.

The findings of the study have been published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.