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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Are mild head injuries as mild as we think? Neurobehavioral concomitants of chronic post-concussion syndrome

Annette Sterr1*, Katherine A Herron1, Chantal Hayward1 and Daniela Montaldi2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Human Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK

2 School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

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BMC Neurology 2006, 6:7  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-6-7

Published: 6 February 2006

Abstract

Background

Mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) can sometimes lead to persistent postconcussion symptoms. One well accepted hypothesis claims that chronic PCS has a neural origin, and is related to neurobehavioral deficits. But the evidence is not conclusive. In the attempt to characterise chronic MTBI consequences, the present experiment used a group comparison design, which contrasted persons (a) with MTBI and PCS, (b) MTBI without PCS, and (c) matched controls. We predicted that participants who have experienced MTBI but show no signs of PCS would perform similar to controls. At the same time, a subgroup of MTBI participants would show PCS symptoms and only these volunteers would have poorer cognitive performance. Thereby, the performance deficits should be most noticeable in participants with highest PCS severity.

Method

38 patients with a single MTBI that had occurred at least 12 month prior to testing, and 38 matched controls, participated in the experiment. A combination of questionnaires and neuropsychological test batteries were used to assess the extent of PCS and related deficits in neurobehavioral performance.

Results

11 out of 38 MTBI participants (29%) were found to suffer from PCS. This subgroup of MTBI patients performed poorly on neuropsychological test batteries. Thereby, a correlation was found between PCS symptom severity and test performance suggesting that participants with more pronounced PCS symptoms performed worse in cognitive tasks. In contrast, MTBI patients with no PCS showed performed similar to matched control. We further found that loss of consciousness, a key criterion for PCS diagnosis, was not predictive of sustained PCS.

Conclusion

The results support the idea that MTBI can have sustained consequences, and that the subjectively experienced symptoms and difficulties in everyday situations are related to objectively measurable parameters in neurocognitive function.