Long-term working memory deficits after concussion: electrophysiological evidence

Brain Inj. 2013;27(11):1244-55. doi: 10.3109/02699052.2013.804207. Epub 2013 Jul 22.


Background: Persistent complaints of lingering memory and concentration difficulties are common following a concussion, although the brain basis of these is unknown. Some suggest abnormalities can be found on the P300 event-related potential component, recorded using electroencephalography (EEG), despite unobservable cognitive impairments.

Objective: To examine the P300 and cognitive performance following a remote concussion during an n-back task that varies in working memory load.

Research design: Seventeen participants with a remote concussion and 17 controls performed a visual n-back task in which working memory demands were systematically increased by manipulating cognitive load. Participants also completed neuropsychological and self-report measures.

Results: The concussion group showed a decrease in P300 amplitude compared to controls that was independent of working memory load on the n-back task. While no performance differences were observed between groups, P300 amplitude was negatively correlated with response times at higher loads in both groups.

Conclusion: High functioning young adults with a remote concussion may have inefficient recruitment of processing resources for target identification, evident by the attenuated P300. The negative correlations between response time and P300 amplitude suggest that the time necessary to accurately respond to targets increases as the efficiency of allocating processing resources decreases during highly demanding working memory tasks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Concussion / epidemiology
  • Brain Concussion / physiopathology*
  • Brain Concussion / psychology*
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Cognition*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Event-Related Potentials, P300*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / etiology
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology
  • Memory, Long-Term*
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reaction Time*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self Report
  • Time Factors
  • Trauma Severity Indices
  • Young Adult