EPA 2021-29th European Congress of Psychiatry, An Innovative Online ExperienceRelationship between cognitive functions and empathy in patients with neurocognitive deficit

Galletta D., Lauria I., Suarato V., Mastrola A.M. and Confuorto M. 

Introduction. Empathy is a social emotive skill that let to experience the same feelings of another person without being in the same situation. It changes during the growth becoming more over sophisticated with the involving of cognitive functions such as perspective taking (Hoffmann, 2000).

Several researches observed a correlation between empathy and psychopathologies that involve cognitive functions such as attention and executive functions (Abdel-Hamid et al., 2019; Blair, 2018; Pijper et al., 2018) or decision-making (Francis et al., 2019).

Objective. To investigate the impact of cognitive impairment on different empathy dimensions.

Methods. 80 subjects with severe neurocognitive deficit were examined. WAIS-R, neuropsychological battery and IRI test were performed.

Results. The impairment of perspective-taking dimension was significantly noticeable (=or<17/30). In addition, impairments of self-regulation process and inner-state monitoring mechanisms were also observed (=or<18/40).

Conclusions. According to previous researches, this study confirms that empathy can be reduced when cognitive functions are compromised by psychopathologies or other medical conditions. Personal distress and perspective taking are empathy dimensions more affected in these cases.

Key-words: cognitive functions, empathy, perspective taking, neurocognitive deficit, IRI.


Abdel‐Hamid, M. et al. (2019). Impaired empathy but no theory of mind deficits in adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Brain and Behavior9(10), e01401.
Blair, R. J. R. (2018). Traits of empathy and anger: implications for psychopathy and other disorders associated with aggression. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences373(1744), 20170155. 

Hoffman, M. L. (2001). Empathy and moral development: Implications for caring and justice. Cambridge University Press. 

Francis, K. B., Gummerum, M., Ganis, G., Howard, I. S., & Terbeck, S. (2019). Alcohol, empathy, and morality: acute effects of alcohol consumption on affective empathy and moral decision-making. Psychopharmacology236(12), 3477-3496. 

Pijper, J., et al. (2018). Executive attention and empathy-related responses in boys with oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder, with and without comorbid anxiety disorder. Child Psychiatry & Human Development49(6), 956-965.