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Emotion Recognition Deficits in Brain Injury Patients May Hinder Social Integration

A new study shows a link between deficits in facial emotion recognition and poor community integration in patients with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The findings have implications for the development of rehabilitative interventions to reduce social isolation in this population, improve outcomes and increase quality of life.

Social isolation is common among people with moderate to severe TBI, and this isolation can contribute to poor rehabilitation outcomes. Social isolation can manifest as a lack of community integration, which includes the home, social settings, and educational and employment settings.

Despite the importance of community integration to individuals and their families, the barriers and facilitators to community integration are poorly understood, and targeted interventions are needed. One potential barrier to community integration is impairment in the ability to accurately identity facial emotions, a deficit that leads to difficulties in social interactions.

For the study, Kessler Foundation researchers compared two groups of participants: 27 patients with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury and 30 healthy controls. All participants completed a questionnaire to determine their community integration levels and took two tests of facial emotion recognition.

The TBI group reported lower levels of community integration compared to the healthy control group. Importantly, those patients who had lower performance on the facial emotion recognition task showed reduced integration into the community.

“Our findings suggest that deficits in facial emotion recognition may contribution to the social isolation experienced by so many people with traumatic brain injury,” said Dr. Helen Genova, assistant director of the Center for Neuropsychology and Neuroscience Research.

“By incorporating appropriate interventions to improve facial emotion recognition into rehabilitative care, we may see improvement in community integration, and increases in quality of life for both individuals and their caregivers,” she said.

The article is published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society by Cambridge University Press.

TBI is a leading public health issue and a major cause of death in the U.S. among civilian, military and veteran populations. From 2006 to 2014, the number of TBI-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths increased by 53%. In 2014, an average of 155 people in the U.S. died each day from injuries that include a TBI, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other symptoms of TBI may include agitation, attention and memory deficits, anxiety, depression, excessive drowsiness, impulsivity and disorientation.

Source: Kessler Foundation

Emotion Recognition Deficits in Brain Injury Patients May Hinder Social Integration

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2019). Emotion Recognition Deficits in Brain Injury Patients May Hinder Social Integration. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 2 Sep 2019 (Originally: 3 Sep 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 2 Sep 2019
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