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Emotion Perception and Alexithymia in People With Severe Traumatic Brain Injury: One Disorder or Two? A Preliminary Investigation

  • Skye McDonald (a1), Julia Rosenfeld (a2), Julie D. Henry (a3), Leanne Togher (a4), Robyn Tate (a5) and Cristina Bornhofen (a6)...

Primary objective: Recent research studies attest to the presence of deficits in emotion perception following severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Additionally, a growing number of studies report significant levels of alexithymia (disorder of emotional cognition) following TBI. This research aimed to examine the relation between the two, while assessing the influence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Design: Cross-sectional study examining levels of alexithymia, emotion perception disorders and PTSD and their association, in 20 people with severe, chronic TBI and 20 adults without brain injuries. Methods: Participants were assessed on the Toronto Alexithymia — 20 Scale, the Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale and on two emotion perception tasks: matching and labelling of photos depicting the 6 basic emotions. Results: The group with TBI were impaired relative to controls when matching facial expressions. Their performance on ‘fear’ was especially poor. Performance on labelling was similar in pattern, although failed to reach significance. There was no association between poor performance on fear, or other negative expressions, and either PTSD or alexithymia symptoms in the TBI group. Conclusions: Alexithymia, as assessed by the TAS-20, taps a constellation of difficulties that do not appear to include difficulties with emotion perception in people with traumatic brain injuries.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Professor Skye McDonald, School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, 2052, Australia.
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Brain Impairment
  • ISSN: 1443-9646
  • EISSN: 1839-5252
  • URL: /core/journals/brain-impairment
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