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To model cognitive reserve (CR) longitudinally in a neurodiverse pediatric sample using a residual index approach, and to test the criterion and construct validity of this index.
Participants were N = 115 children aged 9.5–13 years at baseline (MAge = 10.48 years, SDAge = 0.61), and n = 43 (37.4%) met criteria for ADHD. The CR index represented variance in Matrix Reasoning scores from the WASI that was unexplained by MRI-based brain variables (bilateral hippocampal volumes, total gray matter volumes, and total white matter hypointensity volumes) or demographics (age and sex).
At baseline, the CR index predicted math computation ability (estimate = 0.50, SE = 0.07, p < .001), and word reading ability (estimate = 0.26, SE = 0.10, p = .012). Longitudinally, change in CR over time was not associated with change in math computation ability (estimate = −0.02, SE = 0.03, p < .513), but did predict change in word reading ability (estimate = 0.10, SE = 0.03, p < .001). Change in CR was also found to moderate the relationship between change in word reading ability and white matter hypointensity volume (estimate = 0.10, SE = 0.05, p = .045).
Evidence for the criterion validity of this CR index is encouraging, but somewhat mixed, while construct validity was evidenced through interaction between CR, brain, and word reading ability. Future research would benefit from optimization of the CR index through careful selection of brain variables for a pediatric sample.
The developmental absence (agenesis) of the corpus callosum (AgCC) is a congenital brain malformation associated with risk for a range of neuropsychological difficulties. Inhibitory control outcomes, including interference control and response inhibition, in children with AgCC are unclear. This study examined interference control and response inhibition: 1) in children with AgCC compared with typically developing (TD) children, 2) in children with different anatomical features of AgCC (complete vs. partial, isolated vs. complex), and 3) associations with white matter volume and microstructure of the anterior (AC) and posterior commissures (PC) and any remnant corpus callosum (CC).
Participants were 27 children with AgCC and 32 TD children 8–16 years who completed inhibitory control assessments and brain MRI to define AgCC anatomical features and measure white matter volume and microstructure.
The AgCC cohort had poorer performance and higher rates of below average performance on inhibitory control measures than TD children. Children with complex AgCC had poorer response inhibition performance than children with isolated AgCC. While not statistically significant, there were select medium to large effect sizes for better inhibitory control associated with greater volume and microstructure of the AC and PC, and with reduced volume and microstructure of the remnant CC in partial AgCC.
This study provides evidence of inhibitory control difficulties in children with AgCC. While the sample was small, the study found preliminary evidence that the AC (f2=.18) and PC (f2=.30) may play a compensatory role for inhibitory control outcomes in the absence of the CC.
Despite a well-established link between childhood traumatic brain injury (TBI) and elevated secondary attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (s-ADHD) symptomology, the neurostructural correlates of these symptoms are largely unknown. Based on the influential ‘triple-network model’ of ADHD, this prospective longitudinal investigation aimed to (i) assess the effect of childhood TBI on brain morphometry of higher-order cognitive networks proposed to play a key role in ADHD pathophysiology, including the default-mode network (DMN), salience network (SN) and central executive network (CEN); and (ii) assess the independent prognostic value of DMN, SN and CEN morphometry in predicting s-ADHD symptom severity after childhood TBI.
The study sample comprised 155 participants, including 112 children with medically confirmed mild-severe TBI ascertained from consecutive hospital admissions, and 43 typically developing (TD) children matched for age, sex and socio-economic status. High-resolution structural brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sequences were acquired sub-acutely in a subset of 103 children with TBI and 34 TD children. Parents completed well-validated measures of ADHD symptom severity at 12-months post injury.
Relative to TD children and those with milder levels of TBI severity (mild, complicated mild, moderate), children with severe TBI showed altered brain morphometry within large-scale, higher-order cognitive networks, including significantly diminished grey matter volumes within the DMN, SN and CEN. When compared with the TD group, the TBI group showed significantly higher ADHD symptomatology and higher rates of clinically elevated symptoms. In multivariable models adjusted for other well-established risk factors, altered DMN morphometry independently predicted higher s-ADHD symptomatology at 12-months post-injury, whilst SN and CEN morphometry were not significant independent predictors.
Our prospective study findings suggest that neurostructural alterations within higher-order cognitive circuitry may represent a prospective risk factor for s-ADHD symptomatology at 12-months post-injury in children with TBI. High-resolution structural brain MRI has potential to provide early prognostic biomarkers that may help early identification of high-risk children with TBI who are likely to benefit from early surveillance and preventive measures to optimise long-term neuropsychiatric outcomes.
Psychosocial deficits, such as emotional, behavioral and social problems, reflect the most common and disabling consequences of pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI). Their causes and recovery likely differ from physical and cognitive skills, due to disruption to developing brain networks and the influence of the child's environment. Despite increasing recognition of post-injury behavioral and social problems, there exists a paucity of research regarding the incidence of social impairment, and factors predicting risk and resilience in the social domain over time since injury.
Using a prospective, longitudinal design, and a bio-psychosocial framework, we studied children with TBI (n = 107) at baseline (pre-injury function), 6 months, 1 and 2-years post-injury. We assessed intellectual ability, attention/executive function, social cognition, social communication and socio-emotional function. Children underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at 2–8 weeks post-injury. Parents rated their child's socio-emotional function and their own mental health, family function and perceived burden.
We distinguished five social recovery profiles, characterized by a complex interplay between environment and pre- and post-TBI factors, with injury factors playing a lesser role. Resilience in social competence was linked to intact family and parent function, intact pre-injury adaptive abilities, post-TBI cognition and social participation. Vulnerability in the social domain was related to poor pre- and post-injury adaptive abilities, greater behavioral concerns, and poorer pre- and post-injury parent health and family function.
We identified five distinct social recovery trajectories post-child-TBI, each characterized by a unique biopsychosocial profile, highlighting the importance of comprehensive social assessment and understanding of factors contributing to social impairment, to target resources and interventions to children at highest risk.
Attention and memory deficits are common following paediatric acquired brain injury (ABI). However, there are few evidence-based interventions to improve these domains and benefit the everyday life of children post-injury. The Amsterdam Memory and Attention Training for children (Amat-c) has been translated from Dutch to English and shown to improve attention and memory skills in children following ABI. This protocol describes a study to expand accessibility of the program by using online, clinician-supported delivery with children post-ABI.
The study is a randomized controlled trial. Participants will be 40 children aged 8–16 a minimum of one-year post-ABI. Participants in the treatment group will complete 18 weekly sessions of the Amat-c program with weekly online clinician support. Participants in the active-control group will be administered ABI psychoeducation via a booklet for parents, with weekly online clinician contact. Attention and memory will be assessed at three time points up to six months post-intervention.
Analysis will be repeated measures multivariate planned comparisons; using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (IBM SPSS Statistics) General Linear Model procedure will compare pre- and post-intervention and six-month follow-up outcomes.
If shown efficacious in improving attention and memory, our team will then take a key role in implementing Amat-c into clinical care.
Objectives: Children with acquired brain injury (ABI) can present with disruptive behavior, which is often a consequence of injury and parent factors. Parent factors are associated with child disruptive behavior. Furthermore, disinhibition in the child also leads to disruptive behavior. However, it is unclear how these factors interact. We investigated whether parental factors influence child disruptive behavior following ABI and how these factors interact. Methods: Parents of 77 children with ABI participated in the study. Parent factors (executive dysfunction, trait-anxiety), potential intervention targets (dysfunctional parenting practices, parental stress, child disinhibition), and child disruptive behavior were assessed. A hypothetical model based on the literature was tested using mediation and path analysis. Results: Mediation analysis revealed that child disinhibition and dysfunctional parenting practices mediated the association of parent factors and child disruptive behavior. Parents’ executive dysfunction mediated the association of dysfunctional parenting practices, parental stress and parent trait-anxiety. Parenting practices mediated the association of executive dysfunction and child disruptive behavior. Path analysis indices indicated good model adjustment. Comparative and Tucker-Lewis Index were >0.95, and the root mean square error of approximation was 0.059, with a chi-square of 0.25. Conclusions: A low level of parental trait-anxiety may be required to reduce dysfunctional parenting practices and child disinhibition. Impairments in child disinhibition can be exacerbated when parents present with high trait-anxiety. Child disinhibition is the major contributor of disruptive behavior reported by parents and teachers. The current study provides evidence of parent anxiety and child disinhibition as possible modifiable intervention targets for reducing child disruptive behavior. (JINS, 2019, 25, 237–248)
Research shows incentives can motivate faculty to increase their engagement in mentoring, despite a myriad of institutional barriers. One such incentive may be the implementation of a university-wide mentor award program to promote a culture of mentorship.
A new mentorship award was created at a research-intensive university and faculty recipients were surveyed to assess their perceptions of the award’s impact on their mentoring practices and career.
Sixty-two percent of awardees (n=21) completed the survey and felt the recognition incentivized them to engage in further mentoring and participate in formal mentorship training. Most awardees referenced the award in their CVs, performance evaluations, and grant proposals. Additionally, they felt the award effectively promoted mentoring among the broader faculty community.
Growth of clinical and translational research depends in part on the mentorship received by early career faculty. Therefore, other research universities may benefit from implementing such awards.
Objectives: Agenesis of the corpus callosum (AgCC), characterized by developmental absence of the corpus callosum, is one of the most common congenital brain malformations. To date, there are limited data on the neuropsychological consequences of AgCC and factors that modulate different outcomes, especially in children. This study aimed to describe general intellectual, academic, executive, social and behavioral functioning in a cohort of school-aged children presenting for clinical services to a hospital and diagnosed with AgCC. The influences of age, social risk and neurological factors were examined. Methods: Twenty-eight school-aged children (8 to 17 years) diagnosed with AgCC completed tests of general intelligence (IQ) and academic functioning. Executive, social and behavioral functioning in daily life, and social risk, were estimated from parent and teacher rated questionnaires. MRI findings reviewed by a pediatric neurologist confirmed diagnosis and identified brain characteristics. Clinical details including the presence of epilepsy and diagnosed genetic condition were obtained from medical records. Results: In our cohort, ~50% of children experienced general intellectual, academic, executive, social and/or behavioral difficulties and ~20% were functioning at a level comparable to typically developing children. Social risk was important for understanding variability in neuropsychological outcomes. Brain anomalies and complete AgCC were associated with lower mathematics performance and poorer executive functioning. Conclusions: This is the first comprehensive report of general intellectual, academic, executive social and behavioral consequences of AgCC in school-aged children. The findings have important clinical implications, suggesting that support to families and targeted intervention could promote positive neuropsychological functioning in children with AgCC who come to clinical attention. (JINS, 2018, 24, 445–455)
Objectives: Fatigue is a common and persisting symptom after childhood brain injury. This study examined whether child characteristics and symptomatology preinjury or 6 months postinjury (pain, sleep, and mood, inattention) predicted fatigue at 12months postinjury. Methods: Parents of 79 children (0–18 years) rated fatigue at 12 months after injury on a multidimensional scale (general, sleep/rest, and cognitive). Demographic and clinical data were collected at injury. Parents rated child sleep, pain, physical/motor function, mood, and inattention at injury (preinjury description), and 6 months postinjury. Children were divided into two traumatic brain injury severity groups: mild TBI (n=57) and moderate/severe TBI (n=27). Hierarchical regression models were used to examine (i) preinjury factors and (ii) symptoms 6 months postinjury predictive of fatigue (general, sleep/rest, and cognitive) at 12 months postinjury. Results: Sleep/rest fatigue was predicted by preinjury fatigue (7% of variance) and psychological symptoms preinjury (10% of variance). General fatigue was predicted by physical/motor symptoms (27%), sleep (10%) and mood symptoms (9%) 6 months postinjury. Sleep/rest fatigue was predicted by physical/motor symptoms (10%), sleep symptoms (13%) and mood symptoms (9%) 6 months postinjury. Cognitive fatigue was predicted by physical/motor symptoms (17%) 6 months postinjury. Conclusions: Preinjury fatigue and psychological functioning identified those at greatest risk of fatigue 12 months post-TBI. Predictors of specific fatigue domains at 12 months differed across each of the domains, although consistently included physical/motor function as well as sleep and mood symptoms postinjury. (JINS, 2018, 24, 224–236)
Most research on family members’ experience of dementia has focused on the time after diagnosis. Yet, once people reach clinical attention, families have already been living with the changes for some time. These pre-diagnosis experiences can influence later caregiving. We aimed to synthesize qualitative research exploring family members’ experiences of the pre-diagnostic phase of dementia to inform clinical practice.
We conducted a thematic synthesis of 11 studies that met our inclusion criteria following a comprehensive literature search.
An overarching theme, sense-making, captured the primary process that family members engage in throughout the pre-diagnostic period. Within this, four major analytic themes were extracted as central concepts in understanding family members’ experiences of the pre-diagnostic phase of dementia: the nature of change; appraisals of change; reactions to change; and the influence of others.
Relevant features of the family experience of dementia onset can be characterized within several major themes. These findings highlight the complex process of recognizing early symptoms of dementia for people living with this condition and their families. Our findings also provide the foundation for developing theoretical frameworks that will ultimately assist with improving recognition of dementia onset, clinical communication with family members, and interventions to reduce family burden.
Objectives: This study examined whether children with distinct brain disorders show different profiles of strengths and weaknesses in executive functions, and differ from children without brain disorder. Methods: Participants were children with traumatic brain injury (N=82; 8–13 years of age), arterial ischemic stroke (N=36; 6–16 years of age), and brain tumor (N=74; 9–18 years of age), each with a corresponding matched comparison group consisting of children with orthopedic injury (N=61), asthma (N=15), and classmates without medical illness (N=68), respectively. Shifting, inhibition, and working memory were assessed, respectively, using three Test of Everyday Attention: Children’s Version (TEA-Ch) subtests: Creature Counting, Walk-Don’t-Walk, and Code Transmission. Comparison groups did not differ in TEA-Ch performance and were merged into a single control group. Profile analysis was used to examine group differences in TEA-Ch subtest scaled scores after controlling for maternal education and age. Results: As a whole, children with brain disorder performed more poorly than controls on measures of executive function. Relative to controls, the three brain injury groups showed significantly different profiles of executive functions. Importantly, post hoc tests revealed that performance on TEA-Ch subtests differed among the brain disorder groups. Conclusions: Results suggest that different childhood brain disorders result in distinct patterns of executive function deficits that differ from children without brain disorder. Implications for clinical practice and future research are discussed. (JINS, 2017, 23, 529–538)
Childhood and adolescence coincide with rapid structural and functional maturation of brain networks implicated in Theory of Mind (ToM); however, the impact of paediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI) on the development of these higher order skills is not well understood. ToM can be partitioned into conative ToM, defined as the ability to understand how indirect speech acts involving irony and empathy are used to influence the mental or affective state of the listener; and affective ToM, concerned with understanding that facial expressions are often used for social purposes to convey emotions that we want people to think we feel. In a sample of 84 children with mild-severe TBI and 40 typically developing controls, this study examined the effect of paediatric TBI on affective and conative ToM; and evaluated the respective contributions of injury-related factors (injury severity/lesion location) and non-injury-related environmental variables (socio-economic status (SES)/family functioning) to long-term ToM outcomes. Results showed that the poorest ToM outcomes were documented in association with mild-complicated and moderate TBI, rather than severe TBI. Lesion location and SES did not significantly contribute to conative or affective ToM. Post-injury family affective responsiveness was the strongest and most significant predictor of conative ToM. Results suggest that clinicians should exercise caution when prognosticating based on early clinical indicators, and that group and individual-level outcome prediction should incorporate assessment of a range of injury- and non-injury-related factors. Moreover, the affective quality of post-injury family interactions represents a potentially modifiable risk factor, and might be a useful target for family-centred interventions designed to optimise social cognitive outcomes after paediatric TBI.
The aim of this study was to evaluate attention difficulties in a contemporary geographic cohort of adolescents born extremely preterm (EP, <28 weeks’ gestation) or extremely low birth weight (ELBW, birth weight <1000 g). The EP/ELBW group included 228 adolescents (mean age = 17.0 years) born in Victoria, Australia in 1991 and 1992. The control group were 166 adolescents (mean age = 17.4 years) born of normal birth weight (birth weight >2499 g) who were recruited in the newborn period and matched to the EP/ELBW group on date of birth, gender, language spoken and health insurance status. Participants were assessed on measures of selective, sustained, and executive (shift and divided) attention, and parents and participants completed behavioral reports. The EP/ELBW group performed more poorly across tests of selective and executive attention, had greater rates of clinically significant difficulties compared with the control group, and also had greater behavioral attention problems as reported by parents. Neonatal risk factors were weakly associated with attention outcomes. In conclusion, higher rates of attention impairments are observed in individuals born EP/ELBW well into adolescence and may have consequences for their transition to adulthood. (JINS, 2013, 19, 1–12)
Objective: The aim of this study was to explore the acute psychosocial risk in families with infants undergoing surgery for a congenital heart disease and, secondarily, to explore the psychosocial impact of antenatal versus post-natal diagnoses. Method: The study sample comprised 39 caregivers (28 mothers) of 29 children diagnosed with a congenital heart disease and requiring surgery within the first 4 weeks of life. Psychosocial risk was measured using the Psychosocial Assessment Tool, which was adapted to include four novel items examining infant risk factors, namely, sleeping, feeding, crying, and bonding difficulties. Parents’ psychosocial risk was measured within 4 weeks after their child's surgery and stratified into a three-tiered framework: Universal, Targeted, and Clinical risk. Results: Of the total sample, 61.5% of parents were classified as Universal, that is, at lowest risk; 35.9% as Targeted, and 2.6% as Clinical. The within-family parent total Psychosocial Assessment Tool score correlations were non-significant, and there were no differences between families of infants who received post-natal versus antenatal diagnosis or single ventricle versus biventricular repair. Linear regression found that a higher parent education significantly predicted a lower total Psychosocial Assessment Tool score. Conclusions: Findings indicate that, although the majority of parents adapt to the acute stress of surgery for a serious cardiac illness in their infant, the remaining 38.5% report an increased psychosocial risk associated with higher rates of emotional distress, which may impact on the parental quality of life and capacity for optimal parenting. The distribution of psychosocial risk in parents of children undergoing surgery for a congenital heart disease is consistent with that described for parents of children with other serious paediatric diagnoses.
Children with traumatic brain injury (TBI) are at risk for social impairment. This study aimed to examine social function at 6 months post-TBI and to explore the contribution of injury, cognitive, and environmental influences. The sample included 136 children, 93 survivors of TBI, and 43 healthy controls. TBI participants were recruited on admission and underwent magnetic resonance imaging scan within 8 weeks of injury and behavioral assessment at 6 months post-injury. Healthy controls underwent magnetic resonance imaging scans and behavioral assessment on recruitment. Assessment included parent and child questionnaires tapping social outcome and child-direct testing of cognitive abilities important for social competence (communication, attention/executive function, social cognition). Injury characteristics and environmental measures were collected. At 6-months post-injury, social problems were evident, but not global. Social participation appeared most vulnerable, with more severe injuries leading to greater problems. Greater injury severity and poorer communication skills were associated with poorer social adjustment and social participation, with the impact of family function also significant. Processing speed, younger age, and male gender also contributed to social outcomes. Further follow-up is required to track the recovery of social skills and the changing influences of cognition, brain, and environment over time. (JINS, 2013, 19, 1–12)
Severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the most common cause of brain injury in the Western world and leads to physical, cognitive and emotional deficits that reduce independence. Changes to psychosocial function are the most disruptive, resulting in vocational difficulties, family stress and deteriorating relationships, and are a major target for remediation. But rehabilitation is expensive and its evidence base is limited. Thus, new collaborative initiatives are needed. This article details the development of ‘Moving Ahead’, a model for a Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) for Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation. This CRE offers several major innovations. First, it provides an integrated, multi-faceted approach to addressing psychosocial difficulties embracing different clinical standpoints (e.g., psychological, speech pathology, occupational therapy) and levels of investigation (e.g., basic science to community function) across the lifespan. It is based upon a close relationship with clinicians to ensure transfer of research to practice and, conversely, to ensure that research is clinically meaningful. It provides an integrated platform with which to support and train new researchers in the field via scholarships, postdoctoral fellowships, websites, meetings, mentoring and across-site training, and thus build workforce capacity for individuals with TBI and their families. It has input from the international community to contextualise research more broadly and ensure scientific rigour. Finally, it provides collaboration across sites to facilitate research and data collection.
Purpose: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) often leads to executive functions deficits, which may be responsible for severe and longstanding disabilities in everyday activities. Sensitivity and ecological validity of neuropsychological tests of executive functions have been questioned. The aims of this study were to pilot an ecological open-ended assessment of executive functions in children, the ‘Children's Cooking Task’ (CCT), specifically to report its reliability, discriminant validity and concurrent validity. Methods: Twenty-five children with mild (n = 10) or moderate-to-severe TBI (n = 15), and 21 matched controls (aged 8 to 20 years) participated in the study. An open-ended cooking task was designed to test multi-tasking abilities. It required the preparation of two simple recipes using specific instructions. Outcome measures included the number of errors and an overall qualitative analysis of the task. Validating measures of executive functions included the Delis Kaplan Executive Function System, the Six-Part Test and two questionnaires completed by the child's primary care-giver: the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function and the Dysexecutive Questionnaire for Children. Results: Internal consistency of the Children's Cooking Task was high (Cronbach's alpha = .86), as was test–retest reliability (ICC = .89). Children with moderate-to-severe TBI, as well as children with mild TBI made significantly more errors in the Children's Cooking Task in comparison to controls (p < .001). The CCT was correlated with several tests and one questionnaire of executive functioning (Trails, verbal fluency, sorting, 20 questions, Dysexecutive Questionnaire). Discussion and Conclusion: The Children's Cooking Task has good interrater and test–retest reliability, as well as good discriminant and concurrent validity.
The posterior fossa region of the brain is a frequent site for tumour development in children, with over half of all childhood tumours occurring at this site. The principal brain structure implicated at this site is the cerebellum. Children treated for posterior fossa tumours can have a wide range of neurological and psychosocial problems. This paper describes the literature to date that addresses the neuropsychological impact of tumour and treatment in children with posterior fossa tumours. This paper reviews the literature on the causes of morbidity in this group. It discusses the recent research on the role of the cerebellum in outcomes and the studies that identify variables that interact with radiation effects.
Recently, there has been a surge of interest and research in social functioning throughout childhood and adolescence, and how social development is affected by acquired brain injury (ABI). Despite ongoing research and theoretical advances, there remains a lack of specific, relevant and robust measurement tools that draw upon current clinical and social neuroscience knowledge, and which are developmental in nature, to assess social competence within the nonclinical and the ABI population. The aim of the current project was to develop a questionnaire to measure social competence and the quality of relationships of children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 18 years. This questionnaire, the Developmental Assessment of Social Competence (DASC), also aimed to be sensitive to the specific social problems often associated with children who have suffered ABI. The current article outlines the process and challenges faced in developing such a measure up to the initial pilot stage. Participants included a pilot group of 40 parents who completed the pilot questionnaire, as well as an established questionnaire that assesses social functioning. Parents rated their own children who were aged between 6 and 14 years, and who were within the nonclinical population. Preliminary analyses found that the children generally scored highly on the DASC, and that a higher score on most scales of the DASC tended to be associated with a higher score on an established questionnaire measuring social skills. These data are promising, and provide important information for the following stages of development and evaluation of this new questionnaire.