At UKSF, our principal investigator Nele Demeyere gave a talk on the relationship between cognition and emotional problems after stroke. Nele presented findings from several research projects where we found that stroke survivors who experience difficulties with their thinking abilities were more prone to develop depressive symptoms (but not anxious ones) than those whose thinking skills were less affected by their stroke. Nele further presented the findings wo studies that looked at the mechanism by which mood is influenced post-stroke. One of the studies showed that a higher level of awareness of thinking difficulties led to greater emotional distress. However, when thinking skills improved over the first 6 months after stroke, survivors experienced less emotional distress. A further mechanism shown to impact cognition was illness perception. Overall though, the relationship between difficulties in thinking abilities and emotional changes was consistently found present in the early stages, at 6 months, and in the long-term post-stroke. These findings highlight the need for cognitive rehabilitation and support after discharge and provide targets for intervention.
Andrea Kusec presented her research on the roles of both objective and subjective thinking difficulties to post-stroke depression from early to long-term stroke. Andrea found that at 6 months after stroke, the objective amount of thinking difficulties someone has (e.g., in attention, memory, language) can negatively affect mood. However, in long-term stroke (>2 years after), this changes – how stroke survivors subjectively feel about their thinking difficulties plays a much stronger role in predicting levels of depression and low mood. This is important because in the earlier stages of stroke, working on reducing the amount of thinking difficulties can improve mood, but in the long-term working with stroke survivors on how they feel about their thinking difficulties may be more important to work on in therapy for low mood after stroke.
Sam Webb presented work regarding how the new computer tablet shopping task (OxMET), which measures higher-level cognitive abilities, relates to functional outcomes in stroke survivors. That is, they collected data from stroke survivors whilst they were in a rehab unit and followed them up 6-months later to see if their performance on the game related to how they functioned in daily life. They found that the shopping game can predict someone’s functional recovery. Whilst the relationship was not 1:1, meaning if you failed the shopping task you didn’t always have poor functioning, it nevertheless can help inform and can give clinicians an indication of how someone ‘might’ be, and they can tailor rehabilitation approaches.