Social Cognition in Neuropsychiatric Disorders in Pediatric Age

Francesca Felicia OPERTO, Grazia Maria Giovanna PASTORINO, Chiara PADOVANO, Chiara SCUOPPO, Valentina VIVENZIO, Giangennaro COPPOLA


Objective: The purpose of our study was to assess social cognition in ad-olescents and children with epilepsy or Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) compared to typical individuals. It was verified whether the age of onset, duration and drug therapy of epileptics can influence this ability and if there is a correlation between Social Cognition, intelligence and executive functions.

Methods: This is an observational cross-sectional study that included a total of 125 subjects between 7 and 16 years (62 with focal epilepsy and 63 with SLD). The control group included 32 healthy subjects. Study sub-jects were evaluated with neuropsychological tools to evaluate executive functions (EpiTrack Junior), Social Cognition (NEPSY-II), and intelli-gence; a nonverbal cognitive test (Raven's Matrices) was used in subjects with Epilepsy, while WISC-IV was administered to SLDs.

Results: the groups of subjects scored significantly lower than the con-trols in Social Cognition. The results showed a positive correlation be-tween affect recognition scores and executive function in both groups. In patients with epilepsy the deficit in Affect Recognition appeared to be linked with early age of onset of epilepsy, long term of disease and lack of non-verbal intelligence; a high frequency of seizures, on the other hand, was related to poor performance in the Theory of Mind (ToM). In the SLD group there was no correlation between social cognition and in-tellectual level.

Conclusions: The results of our study suggest that individuals with focal epilepsy or SLD have deficits in the recognition of facial emotions and ToM compared to their peers.

In epilepsy group, the Social Cognition deficit seems to be linked to char-acteristics of epilepsy, particularly the deficits in the recognition of facial emotions seems linked to problems in nonverbal intelligence and in exec-utive function.

In the SLD group, however, the ability to recognize emotions was corre-lated only with executive functions.


social-cognition; epilepsy; specific learning disorder; executive functions;

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