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Title: Exploring social cognition and executive function in HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders (HAND)
Author: Ireland, Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 2711 3312
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2011
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With the success of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), people with HIV are living longer and the incidence and prevalence of HIV-associated disorders, including neurocognitive impairments (e.g. HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders; HAND) are increasing. To date, research into social cognition, referring to the ability to understand other people's internal mental states (such as beliefs, desires and emotions) has been neglected in individuals with HAND despite social cognitive impairments being found in individuals with other neurological problems (e.g. brain injury or dementias involving the frontal lobe). This study sought to explore whether social cognitive deficits are present in individuals with HAND, and if so whether this is a specific deficit or occurs as part of, or secondary to other decline in neuropsychological function, including executive functions which have been associated with social cognition in the literature. Sixteen participants with HAND (mean age = 40.9 years, range 23 to 56 years) were recruited from an inpatient neuro-rehabilitation centre and completed two social cognition tests (a verbal theory of mind test, and a visual test of emotional perception) and a battery of neuropsychological assessments including executive function tests. Group means suggested specific weaknesses on the social cognition tests, and also on tests of processing speed and immediate memory, but these tests were not correlated. Case series analysis suggests that social cognition is separate to other cognitive domains and executive functions since social cognition was impaired in individuals who are functioning relatively well on other cognitive areas. The results indicate that social cognition impairment may be a prominent early problem in individuals with HAND. A task of social cognition on a screening test for HAND may be beneficial for early detection and diagnosis, and useful for understanding the impact that social cognitive deficits may have on everyday life and social functioning. Further research, using bigger samples and better instruments is required to understand social cognitive functioning in HIV individuals.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available