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Functional Brain Alterations Associated With Cognitive Control in Blast-Related Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 June 2018

Danielle R. Sullivan*
Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts Memory Disorders Research Center, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts
Jasmeet P. Hayes
National Center for PTSD, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts Department of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts Neuroimaging Research for Veterans Center, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts
Ginette Lafleche
Memory Disorders Research Center, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts Department of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts
David H. Salat
Neuroimaging Research for Veterans Center, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts
Mieke Verfaellie
Memory Disorders Research Center, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts Department of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Danielle R. Sullivan, Memory Disorders Research Center, VA Boston Healthcare System (151A), 150 S. Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02130. E-mail:


Objectives: Research on the cognitive sequelae of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) suggests that, despite generally rapid recovery, difficulties may persist in the domain of cognitive control. The goal of this study was to examine whether individuals with chronic blast-related mTBI show behavioral or neural alterations associated with cognitive control. Methods: We collected event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data during a flanker task in 17 individuals with blast-related mTBI and 16 individuals with blast-exposure without TBI (control). Results: Groups did not significantly differ in behavioral measures of cognitive control. Relative to the control group, the mTBI group showed greater deactivation of regions associated with the default mode network during the processing of errors. Additionally, error processing in the mTBI group was associated with enhanced negative coupling between the default mode network and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex as well as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, regions of the salience and central executive networks that are associated with cognitive control. Conclusions: These results suggest that deactivation of default mode network regions and associated enhancements of connectivity with cognitive control regions may act as a compensatory mechanism for successful cognitive control task performance in mTBI. (JINS, 2018, 24, 1–11)

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Copyright © The International Neuropsychological Society 2018 

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