Assessing impaired social cognitive function

Good treatment linked to good assessment


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There is increasing research evidence that impaired social cognitive function may be common in HSP and progresses over time along with physical symptoms. Social cognition refers to awareness of others’ emotions and communicating and responding appropriately to those emotions.


Australian researchers have now compiled and detailed a battery of tests to assess the various components of social cognitive function. They emphasise the importance of thorough assessment in guiding the choice of available treatments.




Social cognition broadly refers to the processing of social information in the brain that underlies abilities such as the detection of others’ emotions and responding appropriately to these emotions. Social cognitive skills are critical for successful communication and, consequently, mental health and wellbeing.


Disturbances of social cognition are early and salient features of many neuropsychiatric, neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders, and often occur after acute brain injury. Its assessment in the clinic is, therefore, of paramount importance. Indeed, the most recent edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) introduced social cognition as one of six core components of neurocognitive function, alongside memory and executive control.


Failures of social cognition most often present as poor theory of mind, reduced affective empathy, impaired social perception or abnormal social behaviour. Standard neuropsychological assessments lack the precision and sensitivity needed to adequately inform treatment of these failures. In this review, we present appropriate methods of assessment for each of the four domains, using an example disorder to illustrate the value of these approaches.


We discuss the clinical applications of testing for social cognitive function, and finally suggest a five-step algorithm for the evaluation and treatment of impairments, providing quantitative evidence to guide the selection of social cognitive measures in clinical practice.


SOURCE: Nat Rev Neurol. 2016 Jan;12(1):28-39. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2015.229. Epub 2015 Dec 16. PMID: 26670297

Clinical assessment of social cognitive function in neurological disorders.

Henry JD1, von Hippel W1, Molenberghs P2, Lee T3, Sachdev PS3.

1 School of Psychology, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia.

2 School of Psychological Sciences and Monash Institute of Cognitive &Clinical Neurosciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria 3800, Australia.

3 Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, New South Wales 2031, Australia.

1 comment

  1. I think so.
    Maybe subconsciously because with the major things happening to us other things seems small.
    I get shocked, at some of my bodies failures. 🙄

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