Impairment on theory of mind and empathy in patients with stroke
Impaired social function has been described in patients following stroke. The present study was designed to explore the degree of impairment in the ability to infer mental states in others, or cognitive and affective theory of mind, and empathy, in patients with stroke.
A total of 34 patients with stroke were compared to 40 control subjects on tasks testing verbal and non-verbal theory of mind and empathy.
Results indicated that patients with stroke were significantly impaired in both cognitive and affective theory of mind, even controlling for basic cognitive function and emotional processing. The patients with right stroke had poorer performance than those with left stroke on the cognitive component of non-verbal theory of mind. On the subscale of cognitive empathy, the right stroke group had poorer performance on perspective-taking than the control group.
The right hemisphere may play an important role in decoding non-verbal cues to infer others' minds as well as the processing of empathy, especially the ability of perspective-taking.