Factors contributing to attentional impairments after traumatic brain injury

Neuropsychology. 2009 Jul;23(4):424-32. doi: 10.1037/a0015058.


The aim of the present study was to investigate the contribution of impaired information processing speed and strategic control of attention to performance on attentional tasks after traumatic brain injury (TBI). Forty moderately to severely injured rehabilitation inpatients and 40 healthy controls completed a selection of attentional tasks. Slowed processing speed in the TBI group was identified on the Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT), 2&7 Selective Attention Test (2&7), Selective Attention (SAT), and Four Choice Reaction Time (4CRT) tasks. Impaired working memory was evident on the Letter Number Sequencing (LNS) task. Structural equation modeling revealed that the group difference in RT on the complex SAT was accounted for by slowed speed of processing on the simple SAT, and not working memory. TBI participants made more errors and missed responses on the complex version of the SAT, suggesting impairment in some aspects of strategic control of attention, and appeared unable to benefit from the automatic condition of the 2&7 Test. There was little evidence of deficit on the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART). The present study provides evidence for a significant contribution of slowed processing speed to impaired performance on attentional tasks after TBI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / etiology*
  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reaction Time
  • Reading
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Young Adult