Facial-Affect Recognition Deficit as a Predictor of Different Aspects of Social-Communication Impairment in Traumatic Brain Injury

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Objective: To examine the relationship between facial-affect recognition and different aspects of self- and proxy-reported social-communication impairment following moderate−severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Method: Forty-six adults with chronic TBI (>6 months postinjury) and 42 healthy comparison (HC) adults were administered the La Trobe Communication Questionnaire (LCQ) Self and Other forms to assess different aspects of communication competence and the Emotion Recognition Test (ERT) to measure their ability to recognize facial affects. Results: Individuals with TBI underperformed HC adults in the ERT and self-reported, as well as were reported by close others, as having more communication problems than did HC adults. TBI group ERT scores were significantly and negatively correlated with LCQ-Other (but not LCQ-Self) scores (i.e., participants with lower emotion-recognition scores were rated by close others as having more communication problems). Multivariate regression analysis revealed that adults with higher ERT scores self-reported more problems with disinhibition–impulsivity and partner sensitivity and had fewer other-reported problems with disinhibition–impulsivity and conversational effectiveness. Conclusions: Our findings support growing evidence that emotion-recognition deficits play a role in specific aspects of social-communication outcomes after TBI and should be considered in treatment planning.

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