Social situations can become difficult to deal with after brain injury. This may be caused by problems in reading emotions on oneself and others, communication difficulties, disinhibition and impulsivity, which often result in responding in a manner that is not considered socially appropriate (e. g. immature or inappropriate humour, difficulty in making advantageous decisions on personal matters). This area of function is typically called "social cognition".

Due to the impact these difficulties have on a person's relationships and social roles, they are often a key target area in rehabilitation. At the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust (BIRT) we believe that the first step towards improving social cognition is to understand the nature and degree of difficulties presented. There are not many tools available to measure this.

A well-known and widely used test is The Awareness of Social Inference Test (TASIT), which is very comprehensive, but time consuming. To address the lack of instruments available for measuring social cognition, Charlotte Cattran, Michael Oddy and colleagues developed the BIRT Social Cognition Questionnaire (BSCQ).

The BSCQ comprises 28 questions, and two forms, one for self-report by the person with brain injury, and one for a proxy-report by a relative, clinician or carer. Difficulty in understanding one's own difficulties is common after brain injury (lack of self-awareness) as is difficulty in understanding other people's perceptions - what is usually known as theory of mind. For these reasons, having a good understanding of how the person views their behaviour, as well as how others see it, is very important in working with those with impaired social cognition.

The authors of the tool believe that it will be a very useful instrument to screen for problems in social cognition after brain injury and other neurological conditions. The study reporting the development of this tool is published in the journal Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, and professionals can obtain the two versions of the questionnaire and scoring sheet from Dr Sara da Silva Ramos.