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Theta-Band Functional Connectivity and Single-Trial Cognitive Control in Sports-Related Concussion: Demonstration of Proof-of-Concept for a Potential Biomarker of Concussion

  • Ezra E. Smith (a1) and John J.B. Allen (a1)


Objectives: This report examined theta-band neurodynamics for potential biomarkers of brain health in athletes with concussion. Methods: Participants included college-age contact/collision athletes with (N=24) and without a history of concussion (N=16) in Study 1. Study 2 (N=10) examined changes over time in contact/collision athletes. There were two primary dependent variables: (1) theta-band phase-synchronization (e.g., functional connectivity) between medial and right-lateral electrodes; and (2) the within-subject correlation between synchronization strength on error trials and post-error reaction time (i.e., operationalization of cognitive control). Results: Head injury history was inversely related with medial-lateral connectivity. Head injury was also related to declines in a neurobehavioral measure of cognitive control (i.e., the single-trial relationship between connectivity and post-error slowing). Conclusions: Results align with a theory of connectivity-mediated cognitive control. Mild injuries undetectable by behavioral measures may still be apparent on direct measures of neural functioning. This report demonstrates that connectivity and cognitive control measures may be useful for tracking recovery from concussion. Theoretically relevant neuroscientific findings in healthy adults may have applications in patient populations, especially with regard to monitoring brain health. (JINS 2019, 25, 314–323)


Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: Ezra E. Smith, University of Arizona, Department of Psychology, 1503 E. University Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85721. E-mail:


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