Cortical Thickness Changes and Their Relationship to Dual-Task Performance following Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in Youth
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Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is common in youth, especially in those who participate in sport. Recent investigations from our group have shown that asymptomatic children and adolescents with mTBI continue to exhibit alterations in neural activity and cognitive performance compared with those without a history of mTBI. This is an intriguing finding, given that current return-to-learn and return-to-play protocols rely predominately on subjective symptom reports, which may not be sensitive enough to detect subtle injury-related changes. As a result, youth may be at greater risk for re-injury and long-term consequences if they are cleared for activity while their brains continue to be compromised. It is currently unknown whether mTBI also affects brain microstructure in the developing brain, particularly cortical thickness, and whether such changes are also related to cognitive performance. The present study examined cortical thickness in 13 asymptomatic youth (10-14 years old) who had sustained an mTBI 3-8 months prior to testing compared with 14 age-matched typically developing controls. Cortical thickness was also examined in relation to working memory performance during single and dual task paradigms. The results show that youth who had sustained an mTBI had thinner cortices in the left dorsolateral prefrontal region and right anterior and posterior inferior parietal lobes. Additionally, cortical thinning was associated with slower reaction time during the dual-task condition in the injured youth only. The results also point to a possible relationship between functional and structural alterations as a result of mTBI in youth, and lend evidence for neural changes beyond symptom resolution.
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