Research Reports - Changes in emotional empathy, affective responsivity, and behavior following severe traumatic brain injury

J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2012 Mar 21.

de Sousa A, McDonald S, Rushby J.

This study was designed to examine the relationship between deficits in empathy,
emotional responsivity, and social behavior in adults with severe traumatic brain
injury (TBI). A total of 21 patients with severe TBI and 25 control participants
viewed six film clips containing pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral content whilst
facial muscle responses, skin conductance, and valence and arousal ratings were
measured. Emotional empathy (the Balanced Emotional Empathy Scale, BEES:
self-report) and changes in drive and control in social situations (The Current
Behaviour Scale, CBS: relative report) were also assessed. In comparison to
control participants, those in the TBI group reported less ability to empathize
emotionally and had reduced facial responding to both pleasant and unpleasant
films. They also exhibited lowered autonomic arousal, as well as abnormal ratings
of valence and arousal, particularly to unpleasant films. Relative reported loss
of emotional control was significantly associated with heightened empathy, while
there was a trend to suggest that impaired drive (or motivation) may be related
to lower levels of emotional empathy. The results represent the first to suggest
that level of emotional empathy post traumatic brain injury may be associated
with behavioral manifestations of disorders of drive and control. This study is a
component of the primary author's doctoral dissertation conducted under the
supervision of the second author. The authors wish to thank all who participated
in the study, including the people with traumatic brain injuries, their families,
and community controls who gave willingly of their time. The authors report no
conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and
writing of the paper.

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