Working memory brain activation following severe traumatic brain injury

Cortex. 2007 Jan;43(1):95-111. doi: 10.1016/s0010-9452(08)70448-9.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has shown that brain activation during performance of working memory (WM) tasks under high memory loads is altered in adults with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) relative to uninjured subjects (Perlstein et al., 2004; Scheibel et al., 2003). Our study attempted to equate TBI patients and orthopedically injured (OI) subjects on performance of an N-Back task that used faces as stimuli. To minimize confusion in TBI patients that was revealed in pilot work, we presented the memory conditions in two separate tasks, 0- versus 1-back and 0- versus 2-back. In the 0- versus 1-back task, OI subjects activated bilateral frontal areas more extensively than TBI patients, and TBI patients activated posterior regions more extensively than OI subjects. In the 0- versus 2-back task, there were no significant differences between the groups. Analysis of changes in activation over time on 1-back disclosed that OI subjects had decreases in bilateral anterior and posterior regions, while TBI patients showed activation increases in those and other areas over time. In the 2-back condition, both groups showed decreases over time in fusiform and parahippocampal gyri, although the OI group also showed increases over time in frontal, parietal, and temporal areas not seen in the TBI patients. The greatest group differences were found in the 1-back condition, which places low demand on WM. Although the extent of activation in the 2-back condition did not differ between the two groups, deactivation in the 2-back condition was seen in the OI patients only, and both groups' patterns of activation over time varied, suggesting a dissociation between the TBI and OI patients in recruitment of neural areas mediating WM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Brain Injuries / psychology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Reference Values
  • Statistics, Nonparametric