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Social cognition and traumatic brain injury

Neuropsychological assessment & treatment
PhD ceremony:H.J. (Marjon) Westerhof-Evers, MSc
When:August 26, 2019
Start:14:30
Supervisors:prof. dr. J.M. (Joke) Spikman, prof. dr. J. van der Naalt
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Behavioural and Social Sciences
Social cognition and traumatic brain injury

Worldwide, an estimated 69 million individuals suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year. In people under 40 it is even the leading cause of disability, and it is expected to become the third largest cause of global disease burden by 2020. TBI refers to a blunt, penetrating and acceleration or deceleration force-derived injury that most commonly results from motor vehicle accidents assaults or falls. Behavioral problems are common in patients with moderate to severe TBI, such as, being mindful of personal distance, keeping up with or ending conversations, conforming to social rules and anger management. Social cognition processes are the underlying building blocks for adequate behavior, referring to emotion perception, interpretative processes and regulation responses. In this thesis, the assessment and treatment of social cognition was studied. The study results indicated an obvious link between poor recognition of fearful faces, impaired decision making and a preference for risky behavior. Furthermore, deficits in social cognition and behavioral problems were important indicators for poor vocational and social participation. This is an important finding given that early detection of these problems allow early treatment, preventing an unfavorable outcome. It is recommended to offer patients our newly developed treatment for impairments in social cognition, given that patients were capable to improve their emotion recognition, perspective taking, empathy, societal participation, quality of life and quality of relationships. To conclude, the assessment and treatment of social cognition in patients with TBI is complex, but it turns out to be worthwhile when everyday functioning of patients with TBI actually improves.