Delayed and disorganised brain activation detected with magnetoencephalography after mild traumatic brain injury

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2015 Sep;86(9):1008-15. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2014-308571. Epub 2014 Oct 16.


Background: Awareness to neurocognitive issues after mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is increasing, but currently no imaging markers are available for mTBI. Advanced structural imaging recently showed microstructural tissue changes and axonal injury, mild but likely sufficient to lead to functional deficits. Magnetoencephalography (MEG) has high temporal and spatial resolution, combining structural and electrophysiological information, and can be used to examine brain activation patterns of regions involved with specific tasks.

Methods: 16 adults with mTBI and 16 matched controls were submitted to neuropsychological testing (Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI); Conners; Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT); Generalised Anxiety Disorder Seven-item Scale (GAD-7); Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9); Symptom Checklist and Symptom Severity Score (SCAT2)) and MEG while tested for mental flexibility (Intra-Extra Dimensional set-shifting tasks). Three-dimensional maps were generated using synthetic aperture magnetometry beamforming analyses to identify differences in regional activation and activation times. Reaction times and accuracy between groups were compared using 2×2 mixed analysis of variance.

Findings: While accuracy was similar, patients with mTBI reaction time was delayed and sequence of activation of brain regions disorganised, with involvement of extra regions such as the occipital lobes, not used by controls. Examination of activation time showed significant delays in the right insula and left posterior parietal cortex in patients with mTBI.

Conclusions: Patients with mTBI showed significant delays in the activation of important areas involved in executive function. Also, more regions of the brain are involved in an apparent compensatory effort. Our study suggests that MEG can detect subtle neural changes associated with cognitive dysfunction and thus, may eventually be useful for capturing and tracking the onset and course of cognitive symptoms associated with mTBI.


Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Brain Injuries / psychology
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Young Adult