Objective: This study explores the functional and structural patterns of connectivity underlying working memory impairment after severe traumatic axonal injury.
Methods: We performed an fMRI n-back task and acquired diffusion tensor images (DTI) in a group of 19 chronic-stage patients with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) and evidence of traumatic axonal injury and 19 matched healthy controls. We performed image analyses with FSL software and fMRI data were analyzed using probabilistic independent component analysis. Fractional anisotropy (FA) maps from DTI images were analyzed with FMRIB's Diffusion Toolbox.
Results: We identified working memory and default mode networks. Global FA values correlated with both networks and FA whole-brain analysis revealed correlations in several tracts associated with the functional activation. Furthermore, working memory performance in the patient group correlated with the functional activation patterns and with the FA values of the associative fasciculi.
Conclusion: Combining structural and functional neuroimaging data, we were able to describe structural white matter changes related to functional network alterations and to lower performance in working memory in chronic TBI.