Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Training Program to Improve Emotion Recognition for People with Traumatic Brain Injury

We are currently conducting a research study at Erie County Medical Center (affiliated with the University at Buffalo) and Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada to train people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) to better recognize emotions in others.

Who will qualify?

  • Moderate to severe TBI
  • Must be 18-65 years old
  • Must be at least one year post injury (There is no maximum to how many years post).
  • Have difficulty identifying emotions in others (we will determine this in screening)
  • Able to understand written and verbal information
  • Must be able to express/communicate information
  • If the person has visual or auditory impairments, they must be correctable with glasses or hearing aide.
  • Able to get to Brock University in St. Catherines or Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) over the course of several weeks.
    Brief Description of the Experiment

Some signs that may indicate you or someone you know with a TBI may have impaired emotion recognition:

  • Inability to control own emotions. Will easily get quite angry or sad over something that seems relativley insignificant. These emotions will come and go quickly.
  • Someone who shows very little emotion (especially sadness or fear). (opposite of first example)
  • Inability to cry.
  • Difficulty determining or explaining how they feel on a deeper, emotional level.
  • Flat affect.
  • Think that others don't care about them.
  • Does not respond accordingly or appears to ignore how other people are feeling.
  • Has difficulty picking up on social cues (ie. stands too close; won't stop talking even though the other person clearly needs to end the conversation).
  • Has difficulty making decisions, especially personal decisions.

Brief Description of the Study:
The study involves a screening session to sign consent forms and determine if certain qualifcations are met for you to participate in the study. If you are eligible, you will be asked to come back 2 more times for testing, an hour each time, with 2 weeks in between each testing session. You will then be randomly placed into 1 of 2 treatment programs. Both treatment programs will be carried out with a trained therapist and will require that you come to the research site 3 times per week, an hour each session, for a minimum of 2 weeks. Both treatment programs are on the computer, and are interactive with the therapist. Both are aimed at improving your ability to understand emotions, so they will require some discussions about emotional events. Training goes at the participant's own pace. Once training is complete, we conduct 2 more tests (post-tests). These are the same tests done before training. One is done as soon as possible after training has been completed, and the other will be 2 weeks later. See below for timeline. Each participant who completes the entire study will receive $40.

If you are interested or for more information, please contact Dawn at cogrehabtx@hotmail.com

Background information: Why is this Important and How does it relate to life?

People with traumatic brain injury (TBI) are often faced with many challenges that change their lifestyle dramatically after their injury. One of the most frequently reported long term outcomes for people with moderate to severe TBI is impaired relationships. It is not uncommon for lifetime friends and spouses to "disappear". Making new friends, especially friends without a brain injury, can be quite difficult.

There may be many reasons why some people with TBI have problems maintaining and forming relationships. Relationships are built on social interactions. There are certain social behaviors that are accepted and expected when we engage in an interaction with others. A major component to a successful social interaction is the ability to determine how other people are feeling. Understanding other people's emotions allows us to respond accordingly- behave in a way that is expected by the person we are interacting with. If we cannot perceive sadness in a friend or relative, then we will not try to comfort them. If we cannont perceive anger in our friend, relative, or boss, we will not try to fix the problem.
Several research studies show that people with moderate to severe TBI often have difficulty determining how other people are feeling when compared to people without TBI. There are many areas of the brain that are involved in processing emotion. These areas are very suceptible to injury, and explains why people with TBI often have psychosocial impairments, and often have difficulty controlling their emotions. Not being able to identify emotions in others may be subtle and the person with the injury may not be aware they have this problem. Friends or family members may realize the person with the TBI has difficulty interacting with others, but not realize the person is having problems with understanding emotions.
Study Timeline:
Screening: Go over consent forms and participate in screening process. The screening is mostly comprised of some short paper and pencil tests. This will determine your eligibility to participate in the study. Should take approximately an hour.
If you are eligible:
Pre Test I: one hour
2 week break
Pre-Test II: one hour
Training: 3 times per week for 2-3 weeks. An hour each session.
Post-test I: one hour
Post-test II: one hour