Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 November 2020
This study examines the relationship of serum total tau, neurofilament light (NFL), ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal hydrolase L1 (UCH-L1), and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) with neurocognitive performance in service members and veterans with a history of traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Service members (n = 488) with a history of uncomplicated mild (n = 172), complicated mild, moderate, severe, or penetrating TBI (sTBI; n = 126), injured controls (n = 116), and non-injured controls (n = 74) prospectively enrolled from Military Treatment Facilities. Participants completed a blood draw and neuropsychological assessment a year or more post-injury. Six neuropsychological composite scores and presence/absence of mild neurocognitive disorder (MNCD) were evaluated. Within each group, stepwise hierarchical regression models were conducted.
Within the sTBI group, increased serum UCH-L1 was related to worse immediate memory and delayed memory (R2Δ = .065–.084, ps < .05) performance, while increased GFAP was related to worse perceptual reasoning (R2Δ = .030, p = .036). Unexpectedly, within injured controls, UCH-L1 and GFAP were inversely related to working memory (R2Δ = .052–.071, ps < .05), and NFL was related to executive functioning (R2Δ = .039, p = .021) and MNCD (Exp(B) = 1.119, p = .029).
Results suggest GFAP and UCH-L1 could play a role in predicting poor cognitive outcome following complicated mild and more severe TBI. Further investigation of blood biomarkers and cognition is warranted.