After minor head injury (MHI) postconcussive symptoms (PCS) such as memory and attention deficits frequently occur. It has been hypothesised that PCS are caused by microstructural damage to the brain due to shearing injury, which is not detectable with conventional imaging, and may be responsible for a functional deficit. The purpose of this study was to correlate functional magnetic resonance imaging brain activation of working memory and selective attention with PCS. 21 MHI patients and 12 healthy controls were scanned at 3T. Stimulation paradigms were the n-back and Counting Stroop tasks to engage working memory and selective attention, respectively. Functional data analysis consisted of random effects group analyses, correlating brain activation patterns with the severity of PCS as evaluated with the Rivermead postconcussion symptoms questionnaire. At minimal working memory load, activation was seen in patients with greater severity of PCS in the working memory network. With an increase of working memory load, increase of activation was more pronounced in patients with greater severity of PCS. At high and increased working memory load, activation associated with the severity of PCS was seen in the posterior parietal area, parahippocampal gyrus, and posterior cingulate gyrus. Activation related to selective attention processing was increased with greater severity of PCS. The increased activity in relation to working memory and attention, and the recruitment of brain areas outside the working memory network at high working memory load, may be considered a reflection of the brain's compensatory response to microstructural injury in patients with PCS.

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Human Brain Mapping
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Smits, M., Dippel, D., Houston, G., Wielopski, P., Koudstaal, P., Hunink, M., & van der Lugt, A. (2009). Postconcussion syndrome after minor head injury: Brain activation of working memory and attention. Human Brain Mapping, 30(9), 2789–2803. doi:10.1002/hbm.20709