The relationship of resting cerebral blood flow and brain activation during a social cognition task in adolescents with chronic moderate to severe traumatic brain injury: a preliminary investigation

Int J Dev Neurosci. 2012 May;30(3):255-66. doi: 10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2011.10.008. Epub 2011 Nov 22.


Alterations in cerebrovascular function are evident acutely in moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), although less is known about their chronic effects. Adolescent and adult patients with moderate to severe TBI have been reported to demonstrate diffuse activation throughout the brain during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Because fMRI is a measure related to blood flow, it is possible that any deficits in blood flow may alter activation. An arterial spin labeling (ASL) perfusion sequence was performed on seven adolescents with chronic moderate to severe TBI and seven typically developing (TD) adolescents during the same session in which they had performed a social cognition task during fMRI. In the TD group, prefrontal CBF was positively related to prefrontal activation and negatively related to non-prefrontal, posterior, brain activation. This relationship was not seen in the TBI group, who demonstrated a greater positive relationship between prefrontal CBF and non-prefrontal activation than the TD group. An analysis of CBF data independent of fMRI showed reduced CBF in the right non-prefrontal region (p<.055) in the TBI group. To understand any role reduced CBF may play in diffuse extra-activation, we then related the right non-prefrontal CBF to activation. CBF in the right non-prefrontal region in the TD group was positively associated with prefrontal activation, suggesting an interactive role of non-prefrontal and prefrontal blood flow throughout the right hemisphere in healthy brains. However, the TBI group demonstrated a positive association with activation constrained to the right non-prefrontal region. These data suggest a relationship between impaired non-prefrontal CBF and the presence of non-prefrontal extra-activation, where the region with more limited blood flow is associated with activation limited to that region. In a secondary analysis, pathology associated with hyperintensities on T2-weighted FLAIR imaging over the whole brain was related to whole brain activation, revealing a negative relationship between lesion volume and frontal activation, and a positive relationship between lesion volume and posterior activation. These preliminary data, albeit collected with small sample sizes, suggest that reduced non-prefrontal CBF, and possibly pathological tissue associated with T2-hyperintensities, may provide contributions to the diffuse, primarily posterior extra-activation observed in adolescents following moderate to severe TBI.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Child
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Social Behavior*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Young Adult