Functional abnormalities in symptomatic concussed athletes: an fMRI study

Neuroimage. 2004 May;22(1):68-82. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2003.12.032.


Our aim was to quantify with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) changes in brain activity in concussed athletes and compare the results with those of normal control subjects. Regional brain activations associated with a working memory task were obtained from a group of concussed athletes (15 symptomatic, 1 asymptomatic) and eight matched control subjects, using blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) fMRI. The average percent signal change from baseline to working memory condition in each region of interest was computed. Symptomatic concussed athletes demonstrated task-related activations in some but not all the regions of interest, even when they performed as well as the control subjects. Furthermore, several concussed athletes had additional increases in activity outside the regions of interest, not seen in the control group. Quantitative analysis of BOLD signals within regions of interest revealed that, in general, concussed athletes had different BOLD responses compared to the control subjects. The task-related activation pattern of the one symptom-free athlete was comparable to that of the control group. We also repeated the study in one athlete whose symptoms had resolved. On the first study, when he was still symptomatic, less task-related activations were observed. On follow-up, once his symptoms had disappeared, the task-related activations became comparable to those of the control group. These results demonstrate the potential of fMRI, in conjunction with the working memory task, to identify an underlying pathology in symptomatic concussed individuals with normal structural imaging results.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / pathology*
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Brain Concussion / pathology*
  • Brain Concussion / physiopathology*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Oxygen / blood


  • Oxygen