How mild traumatic brain injury may affect declarative memory performance in the post-acute stage.

Research paper by Maja M Stulemeijer, Pieter E PE Vos, Sieberen S van der Werf, Gert G van Dijk, Mark M Rijpkema, Guillén G Fernández

Indexed on: 16 Jul '10Published on: 16 Jul '10Published in: Journal of neurotrauma


Memory deficits are among the most frequently reported sequelae of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), especially early after injury. To date, these cognitive deficits remain poorly understood, as in most patients the brain is macroscopically intact. To identify the mechanism by which MTBI causes declarative memory impairments, we probed the functionality of the medial temporal lobe (MTL) and the prefrontal cortex (PFC), within 6 weeks after injury in 43 patients from a consecutive cohort, and matched healthy controls. In addition to neuropsychological measures of declarative memory and other cognitive domains, all subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Behavioral results showed poorer declarative memory performance in patients than controls, and decreasing performance with increasing duration of post-traumatic amnesia (a measure of injury severity). Task performance in the scanner was, as intended by the task and design, similar in patients and controls, and did not relate to injury severity. The task used reliably activated the MTL and PFC. Although we did not find significant differences in brain activity when comparing patients and controls, we revealed, in agreement with our neuropsychological findings, an inverse correlation between MTL activity and injury severity. In contrast, no difference in prefrontal activation was found between patients and controls, nor was there a relation with injury severity. On a behavioral level, injury severity was inversely related to declarative memory performance. In all, these findings suggest that reduced medial temporal functionality may contribute to poorer declarative memory performance in the post-acute stage of MTBI, especially in patients with longer post-traumatic amnesia.