Emotion Perception After TBI/Stroke w/ Drs. Zupan & Neumann

October 10, 2021

Emotion Perception After TBI/Stroke w/ Drs. Zupan & Neumann


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  1. NEUMANN: And every time something was brought up, you know, we would show them this picture, his face would be as flat as can be but his physiological responses, his arousal of responses were really strong every time he saw one of these emotion stimuli. And it was amazing because just looking at his face there was nothing there. And he doesn’t think anything is there. You know I had asked him, “What would you do if your wife divorced you?” And he said as flat as he, you know, just straight faced as he could possibly be, “Well she’s got to do what she has to do.” Yet, this massive spike so you could tell he had this emotional response. And so it made me think that like these people who have this blunted affect, I think that it’s just unlocking something. There’s something there that we have to get through. We have, it’s a barrier that we have to get through and help them learn there’s a threshold. And it’s, this threshold has become so high in some of these individuals that we’ve got to lower this threshold and their ability to tackle when something’s going on. And kind of unlock some of these physiological responses and so that’s what led me to kind of develop the intervention that we have for teaching people with brain injury to gain insight into their emotions, detect these physiological responses, connect physiological responses with an emotional label and what they’re feeling and then being able to communicate and express those things. And then, so, if this neural plasticity, I believe that it’s there. I believe that as long as these, you know, these connections aren’t fully and completely destructed. You know, you can revive some of these and strengthen some of these connections.
  2. ZUPAN: What happens is when people first have a brain injury, there’s often so many things that they need help with, right? And so you’re focusing on let’s get them back to eating, let’s get them back to walking, let’s get them the skills they need to go back to work or to their life. And so this whole emotion, empathy, social cognition side of things kind of gets forgotten about or, in some cases, isn’t recognized as a problem, because when you’re in a hospital or rehab situation, everything’s structured and everything’s happening with a specific purpose or reason so sometimes those interactional problems don’t show up but also people are, um, too busy being focused on other things. So then these people go home and they no longer have this regular therapy and everyone thinks they’re ready to go…you know they’ve the skills they need to be fairly successful and it all falls to pieces…And that’s because, if you’re not responding or interacting emotionally and using social communication the way people expect, then that creates huge problems…

EPISODE SUMMARY: In this episode of NOGGINS & NEURONS: Stroke and TBI Recovery Simplified, we chat at length with Dr. Barbara Zupan and Dr. Dawn Neumann about emotion perception following traumatic brain injury/stroke. Topics covered include:

  • Alexithymia (the inability to recognize emotions from vocal, facial and body movement cues) and the problems experienced by the survivor and those they interact with as a result.
  • Pete’s sleuthing skills, how Dawn and Barbara started working together and other important members of their research team
  • Alexithymia, no words for emotions, neuroplasticity and treating the problem in brain injury survivors
  • Role of neuro imaging in emotion recovery
  • Interoception is key for detecting physiological responses and identifying emotions
  • Interventions to improve communication for partners and survivors and who can and should facilitate them…from SLP’s, Neuropsychologists and OT’s to trained support workers
  • Social cognition treatment, apps, training and intervention delivery. The intervention Dawn and Barbara developed will be available via app later this year! Stay tuned…
  • The value of explicit communication and managing emotional responses on the part of caregivers and loved ones

As always, we want to hear your top takeaways! Email us!


Facial Affect Recognition Task

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