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The impact of physical activity on social cognition, cognition, and mood following TBI: A randomised controlled trial protocol

Background and Objectives: Difficulties with various aspects of social cognition following traumatic brain injury (TBI) are well documented. The rapidly expanding focus on social cognition presents an opportunity to explore holistic integrative approaches in rehabilitation. This study aims to explore the impact of a physical activity program on heart rate variability and social cognition for people with TBI. It is known that limited participation in physical activity (PA) puts people with TBI at a significant health risk but increasing PA in this population positively impacts physical health, mood, and cognition. Thus, it is hypothesised that the same improvement can be attained for social cognition. Studies with people without TBI have actually reported a connection between heart rate variability and facial emotion perception, supporting this hypothesis. Method: 20 adults with moderate to severe TBI will be recruited for this randomised controlled trial. Participants are eligible if they are currently engaging in less than 90 minutes of physical activity per week. Participants individually complete a 12-week exercise program, supervised by an accredited exercise physiologist. Pre- and post- intervention measurements will include objective data from the accelerometer, self-report questionnaires measuring mood and social participation, and researcher-administered assessments to investigate the impact of the exercise program on social cognition, cognition, executive functioning and general physical health (including heart rate variability). Results: This protocol is currently being implemented. The links between social cognition, cognition, mood and physical activity (including heart rate variability) will be discussed. An overview of the protocol will be presented, including rationale, methods, and challenges faced in implementing the protocol to date. Conclusion: This innovative protocol has the potential to improve social cognition, cognition and mood alongside physical health, offering a prospective holistic approach to rehabilitation for people with TBI.


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Perth, Western Australia

Open Access


Author Research Institute

  • Appleton Institute

Era Eligible


Name of Conference

Australian Society for the Study of Brain Impairment 2022 conference

Presentation Date