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Neuropsychol Rehabil. 2013;23(6):824-45. doi: 10.1080/09602011.2013.826138. Epub 2013 Aug 22.

Who benefits from treatment for executive dysfunction after brain injury? Negative effects of emotion recognition deficits.

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  • 1a Department of Clinical and Developmental Neuropsychology , University of Groningen (RUG) , The Netherlands.


Deficits in emotion recognition, a crucial aspect of social cognition, are common after serious brain injury, as are executive deficits. Since social cognition and executive function are considered to be separate constructs, our first aim was to examine the presence of emotion recognition problems in brain injury patients with dysexecutive problems. We studied 65 brain injury patients of mixed aetiology participating in a randomised controlled trial evaluating the effects of a multifaceted treatment for executive dysfunction (Spikman, Boelen, Lamberts, Brouwer, & Fasotti, 2010 ) and 84 matched controls with a test for emotion recognition. Results showed that, in patients with acquired brain injury exhibiting executive deficits, emotion recognition deficits are also present. Male patients are more impaired than female patients, irrespective of aetiology. Our second aim was to investigate whether emotion recognition problems negatively predict the results of the treatment programme. Pre-treatment emotion recognition performance significantly predicted resumption of roles in daily life (Role Resumption List; RRL) and performance on an ecologically valid test for everyday executive functioning (Executive Secretarial Task; EST) post-treatment and, in addition, interfered negatively with treatment condition. Moreover, worse pre-treatment emotion recognition skills affect the learning of compensatory strategies for executive dysfunction negatively, whereas pre-treatment dysexecutive deficits do not.

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