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We examined whether intraindividual variability (IIV) across tests of executive functions (EF-IIV) is elevated in Veterans with a history of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) relative to military controls (MCs) without a history of mTBI. We also explored relationships among EF-IIV, white matter microstructure, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.
A total of 77 Veterans (mTBI = 43, MCs = 34) completed neuropsychological testing, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and PTSD symptom ratings. EF-IIV was calculated as the standard deviation across six tests of EF, along with an EF-Mean composite. DSI Studio connectometry analysis identified white matter tracts significantly associated with EF-IIV according to generalized fractional anisotropy (GFA).
After adjusting for EF-Mean and PTSD symptoms, the mTBI group showed significantly higher EF-IIV than MCs. Groups did not differ on EF-Mean after adjusting for PTSD symptoms. Across groups, PTSD symptoms significantly negatively correlated with EF-Mean, but not with EF-IIV. EF-IIV significantly negatively correlated with GFA in multiple white matter pathways connecting frontal and more posterior regions.
Veterans with mTBI demonstrated significantly greater IIV across EF tests compared to MCs, even after adjusting for mean group differences on those measures as well as PTSD severity. Findings suggest that, in contrast to analyses that explore effects of mean performance across tests, discrepancy analyses may capture unique variance in neuropsychological performance and more sensitively capture cognitive disruption in Veterans with mTBI histories. Importantly, findings show that EF-IIV is negatively associated with the microstructure of white matter pathways interconnecting cortical regions that mediate executive function and attentional processes.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether loss of consciousness (LOC), retrograde amnesia (RA), and anterograde amnesia (AA) independently influence a particular aspect of post-concussion cognitive functioning—across-test intra-individual variability (IIV), or cognitive dispersion.
Concussed athletes (N = 111) were evaluated, on average, 6.04 days post-injury (SD = 5.90; Mdn = 4 days; Range = 1–26 days) via clinical interview and neuropsychological assessment. Primary outcomes of interest included two measures of IIV—an intra-individual standard deviation (ISD) score and a maximum discrepancy (MD) score—computed from 18 norm-referenced variables.
Analyses of covariance (ANCOVAs) adjusting for time since injury and sex revealed a significant effect of LOC on the ISD (p = .018, ηp2 = .051) and MD (p = .034, ηp2 = .041) scores, such that athletes with LOC displayed significantly greater IIV than athletes without LOC. In contrast, measures of IIV did not significantly differ between athletes who did and did not experience RA or AA (all p > .05).
LOC, but not RA or AA, was associated with greater variability, or inconsistencies, in cognitive performance acutely following concussion. Though future studies are needed to verify the clinical significance of these findings, our results suggest that LOC may contribute to post-concussion cognitive dysfunction and may be a risk factor for less efficient cognitive functioning.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) history have high rates of performance validity test (PVT) failure. The study aimed to determine whether those with scores in the invalid versus valid range on PVTs show similar benefit from psychotherapy and if psychotherapy improves PVT performance.
Veterans (N = 100) with PTSD, mild-to-moderate TBI history, and cognitive complaints underwent neuropsychological testing at baseline, post-treatment, and 3-month post-treatment. Veterans were randomly assigned to cognitive processing therapy (CPT) or a novel hybrid intervention integrating CPT with TBI psychoeducation and cognitive rehabilitation strategies from Cognitive Symptom Management and Rehabilitation Therapy (CogSMART). Performance below standard cutoffs on any PVT trial across three different PVT measures was considered invalid (PVT-Fail), whereas performance above cutoffs on all measures was considered valid (PVT-Pass).
Although both PVT groups exhibited clinically significant improvement in PTSD symptoms, the PVT-Pass group demonstrated greater symptom reduction than the PVT-Fail group. Measures of post-concussive and depressive symptoms improved to a similar degree across groups. Treatment condition did not moderate these results. Rate of valid test performance increased from baseline to follow-up across conditions, with a stronger effect in the SMART-CPT compared to CPT condition.
Both PVT groups experienced improved psychological symptoms following treatment. Veterans who failed PVTs at baseline demonstrated better test engagement following treatment, resulting in higher rates of valid PVTs at follow-up. Veterans with invalid PVTs should be enrolled in trauma-focused treatment and may benefit from neuropsychological assessment after, rather than before, treatment.
The purpose of this study was to examine sex differences in neuropsychological functioning after sports-related concussion using several approaches to assess cognition: mean performance, number of impaired scores, and intraindividual variability (IIV).
In the study, 152 concussed college athletes were administered a battery of neuropsychological tests, on average, 10 days post-concussion (SD = 12.75; Mdn = 4 days; Range = 0–72 days). Mean performance was evaluated across 18 individual neuropsychological variables, and the total number of impaired test scores (>1.5 SD below the mean) was calculated for each athlete. Two measures of IIV were also computed: an intraindividual standard deviation (ISD) score and a maximum discrepancy (MD) score.
Analyses of covariance revealed that, compared with males, females had significantly more impaired scores and showed greater variability on both IIV indices (ISD and MD scores) after adjusting for time since injury and post-concussive symptoms. In contrast, no significant effects of sex were found when examining mean neuropsychological performance.
Although females and males demonstrated similar mean performance following concussion, females exhibited a greater level of cognitive impairment and larger inconsistencies in cognitive performance than males. These results suggest that evaluating cognitive indices beyond mean neuropsychological scores may provide valuable information when determining the extent of post-concussion cognitive dysfunction.
Exploring the relationship between genetic factors and outcome following brain injury has received increased attention in recent years. However, few studies have evaluated the influence of genes on specific sequelae of concussion. The purpose of this study was to determine how the ϵ4 allele of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene influences symptom expression following sports-related concussion. Participants included 42 collegiate athletes who underwent neuropsychological testing, including completion of the Post-Concussion Symptom Scale (PCSS), within 3 months after sustaining a concussion (73.8% were evaluated within 1 week). Athletes provided buccal samples that were analyzed to determine the make-up of their APOE genotype. Dependent variables included a total symptom score and four symptom clusters derived from the PCSS. Mann-Whitney U tests showed higher scores reported by athletes with the ϵ4 allele compared to those without it on the total symptom score and the physical and cognitive symptom clusters. Furthermore, logistic regression showed that the ϵ4 allele independently predicted those athletes who reported physical and cognitive symptoms following concussion. These findings illustrate that ϵ4+ athletes report greater symptomatology post-concussion than ϵ4- athletes, suggesting that the ϵ4 genotype may confer risk for poorer post-concussion outcome. (JINS, 2016, 22, 89–94)
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