Social cognition impairments are associated with behavioural changes in the long term after stroke

Britta Nijsse, Jacoba M Spikman, Johanna M A Visser-Meily, Paul L M de Kort, Caroline M van Heugten*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Behavioural changes after stroke might be explained by social cognition impairments. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether performances on social cognition tests (including emotion recognition, Theory of Mind (ToM), empathy and behaviour regulation) were associated with behavioural deficits (as measured by proxy ratings) in a group of patients with relatively mild stroke.

METHODS: Prospective cohort study in which 119 patients underwent neuropsychological assessment with tests for social cognition (emotion recognition, ToM, empathy, and behaviour regulation) 3-4 years post stroke. Test scores were compared with scores of 50 healthy controls. Behavioural problems were assessed with the Dysexecutive Questionnaire (DEX) self rating and proxy rating scales. Pearson correlations were used to determine the relationship between the social cognition measures and DEX scores.

RESULTS: Patients performed significantly worse on emotion recognition, ToM and behaviour regulation tests than controls. Mean DEX-self score did not differ significantly from the mean DEX-proxy score. DEX-proxy ratings correlated with tests for emotion recognition, empathy, and behavioural regulation (lower scores on these items were associated with more problems on the DEX-proxy scale).

CONCLUSIONS: Social cognition impairments are present in the long term after stroke, even in a group of mildly affected stroke patients. Most of these impairments also turned out to be associated with a broad range of behavioural problems as rated by proxies of the patients. This strengthens the proposal that social cognition impairments are part of the underlying mechanism of behavioural change. Since tests for social cognition can be administered in an early stage, this would allow for timely identification of patients at risk for behavioural problems in the long term.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0213725
Number of pages15
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2019


  • MIND

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