Research Reports - Sensitivity to emotion, empathy and theory of mind: Adult performance following childhood TBI

Brain Inj. 2013;27(9):1032-7

McLellan T, McKinlay A

Abstract Primary objective: To examine deficits in emotion perception for adults
who had experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during childhood and
investigate relationships between emotion perception skills, empathy and Theory
of Mind (ToM). Design: Participants consisted of a random selection of
individuals (n = 52) who had previously been recruited for a larger study. All
participants had experienced an injury event as a child (0-17 years) (mild TBI,
moderate/severe TBI or fractured limb) and were now aged between 18-30 years,
with a minimum of 5 years post-injury. Methods and procedure: Each participant
completed an emotion-sensitivity task, facial expression recognition task, the
faux pas test (ToM) and the Interpersonal Reactivity Inventory (IRI: Empathy).
Main outcomes: Individuals with moderate/severe TBI were less sensitivite to
emotion and less accurate at facial expression recognition than those with mild
TBI and orthopaedic controls. Difficulty with affective ToM but not empathy was
also found. The emotion-sensitivity and the facial expression recognition tasks
were unrelated, with only emotion sensitivity but not expression recognition
related to ToM and IRI empathy. Conclusions: The current findings indicated that
deficits in social skills are long lasting and raises the issue of whether
intervention to improve sensitivity to genuine emotion can influence more complex
social skills and improve quality of social interactions for individuals
following TBI.

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