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Title: Emotional processing and social cognition in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)/Motor Neuron Disease (MND)
Author: Watermeyer, Tamlyn Julie
ISNI:       0000 0004 5357 4446
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a debilitating and life–limiting neurodegenerative disorder that causes progressive muscle atrophy and spasticity. A small proportion of ALS patients experience co–morbid Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD). Milder cognitive–behavioural changes have been noted in ALS patients without dementia. In these patients, deficits in executive functioning, language, memory and behaviour have been documented. Recently, changes to emotional processing and social cognition (EMOSOC) in ALS have also been reported, albeit with inconsistent findings. The primary aims of the current thesis were i) to delineate the nature and extent of changes in EMOSOC in ALS and ii) to determine the relationship between such changes and interindividual differences in mood, behaviour, personality, empathy and ALS–related executive dysfunction. The results of the study indicate a profile of predominant executive dysfunction, with relative sparing of EMOSOC in non–demented ALS patients. However, the ALS patients did show impaired performance on a task requiring the attribution of thoughts and feelings to characters from cartoons and vignettes. ALS patients’ performance on EMOSOC tasks was predicted by their performance on tests of executive function, above and beyond mood, behaviour, personality and empathy variables. As a secondary aim, the impact of patients’ cognitive and behavioural changes on ALS caregivers’ outcomes (mood, perceived strain, burden and marital satisfaction) were examined. The data indicated patients’ behavioural dysfunction and functional impairment as key predictors of caregivers’ outcomes. Exploratory analyses revealed differences between patients’ and caregivers’ perceptions of patients’ personality, empathy and behaviour; these differences were associated with caregiver outcomes. In summary, the current thesis characterises the profile of EMOSOC changes in non–demented ALS and highlights the role of ALS–related executive dysfunction in these changes. It also assesses the relative impact of patients’ disease, cognitive and behavioural changes on ALS caregivers.
Supervisor: Goldstein, Laura Hilary; Brown, Richard Gerard Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available