Different aspects of facial affect recognition impairment following traumatic brain injury: The role of perceptual and interpretative abilities
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It is well established that many individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) are impaired at facial affect recognition, yet little is known about the mechanisms underlying such deficits. In particular, little work has examined whether the breakdown of facial affect recognition abilities occurs at the perceptual level (e.g., recognizing a smile) or at the verbal categorization stage (e.g., assigning the label "happy" to a smiling face). The aim of the current study was to investigate the integrity of these two distinct facial affect recognition subskills in a sample of 38 individuals with moderate-to-severe TBI and 24 demographically matched healthy individuals. Participants were administered an affect matching (perceptual skills) and an affect labeling (verbal categorization skills) task. Statistical analyses revealed that, while individuals with TBI showed significantly higher levels of impairment in the verbal categorization task than in the perceptual task, they performed less well than healthy comparison participants on both tasks. These findings indicate that facial affect recognition impairment can occur at different cognitive stages following TBI, suggesting the necessity of careful screening to offer targeted treatment. Moreover, they provide further neuropsychological evidence supporting the notion that distinct types of subskills are necessary to achieve successful recognition of facial affects.