Diffuse axonal injury due to traumatic brain injury alters inhibition of imitative response tendencies

Neuropsychologia. 2007 Nov 5;45(14):3149-56. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2007.07.004. Epub 2007 Jul 14.


It is well known that traumatic brain injury particularly affects the frontal lobes. Consequently, patients often suffer from executive dysfunction and behavioral disturbances. Accordingly, our study aimed at investigating patients after traumatic brain injury with two tasks involving different functional processes and structural networks supported by the frontal lobes. Two paradigms were applied: the Stroop color-word task and a task in which subjects had to inhibit imitative response tendencies. We selected a patient group solely with diffuse axonal injury, as this type of injury is homogenous and is correlated with cognitive dysfunction more than focal contusions. To evaluate long-term effects most relevant for rehabilitation, we selected a patient group whose brain injuries dated back several years. Our results show that patients with diffuse axonal injury inhibited imitative responses more successfully than control subjects, whereas executive processes examined with the Stroop task were unaltered. Interestingly, impairments were tightly correlated both with the length of the post-traumatic amnesia predicting outcome in traumatic brain injury and with behavioral disturbances. Impairments in the imitation-inhibition task may indicate alterations in an anterior frontomedian neural network even years after traumatic brain injury.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Brain Injuries / pathology
  • Diffuse Axonal Injury / etiology*
  • Diffuse Axonal Injury / pathology
  • Diffuse Axonal Injury / psychology*
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior / physiology*
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology