Cognitive rehabilitation therapy

Cognitive rehabilitation therapy for patients with somatic symptom and related disorders [Seed Funding]

Cognitive problems are often reported in patients with somatic symptom and related disorders but not yet part of the treatment protocol. Using cognitive rehabilitation treatment (CRT), patients learn a compensatory strategy to overcome cognitive problems. Dr. Lars de Vroege and Prof. Dr. Willem Kop will evaluate the added value of CRT compared to the standard-of-care treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy. This project is part of the Personalized Prevention and Care theme.

Somatic symptom and related disorders (SSRD) is characterized by sustained (>6 months) physical symptoms, associated with cognitive, emotional and behavioral problems. The estimated prevalence is between 5% and 7% and SSRD is associated with substantially impaired quality of life and enormous societal costs.

SSRD can lead to cognitive symptoms that disrupt optimal functioning, such as attention problems and reduced information processing speed. These cognitive symptoms are even worse in case of comorbid depression, which is present in up to 75% of patients with SSRD. To overcome cognitive symptoms, cognitive rehabilitation treatment (CRT) can be provided in specialty mental health care settings. These CRT-based approaches are likely to be more beneficial in patients with cognitive problems, compared to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is the current standard-of-care treatment for patients with SSRD. Evidence from patients with brain damage supports the clinical utility of CRT, but studies in patients with SSRD lack.

This project aims to examine whether patients with SSRD benefit more from CRT compared to CBTon self-reported cognitive symptoms and  on neuropsychological tests. Also it will answer the question to what extent the improvements on neuropsychological assessment are predictive of self-reported cognitive functioning. Finally, this project investigates the patients’ needs in terms of e-Health support for cognitive functioning.

This study ensures new collaboration opportunities between Tilburg University’s School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the department of Medical and Clinical Psychology of the Tilburg University, and the Tilburg-based mental health care facility (GGz Breburg). The interdisciplinary collaboration will benefit all three institutions by exchanging scientific knowledge which lead to further enhancement of CRT for patients with cognitive problems.

Findings of this study can also be translated to other conditions in which cognitive problems are common (e.g., cancer survivors, patients with traumatic brain injury, (other) mental disorders, age-related mild cognitive impairments, and the cognitive problems accompanying burn-out).


Project duration: 2020 - 2021

Cross-cutting themes

The Herbert Simon Research Institute for Health, Well-being, and Adaptiveness is a research center devoted to carrying out excellent, state of the art research in order to contribute to healthy and resilient people. We have selected three themes, which involve the collaboration between various Departments  and address actual themes in need of both fundamental and applied research.