Functional magnetic resonance imaging of mild traumatic brain injury

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2015 Feb:49:8-18. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.11.016. Epub 2014 Nov 28.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) offers great promise for elucidating the neuropathology associated with a single or repetitive mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). The current review discusses the physiological underpinnings of the blood-oxygen level dependent response and how trauma affects the signal. Methodological challenges associated with fMRI data analyses are considered next, followed by a review of current mTBI findings. The majority of evoked studies have examined working memory and attentional functioning, with results suggesting a complex relationship between cognitive load/attentional demand and neuronal activation. Researchers have more recently investigated how brain trauma affects functional connectivity, and the benefits/drawbacks of evoked and functional connectivity studies are also discussed. The review concludes by discussing the major clinical challenges associated with fMRI studies of brain-injured patients, including patient heterogeneity and variations in scan-time post-injury. We conclude that the fMRI signal represents a complex filter through which researchers can measure the physiological correlates of concussive symptoms, an important goal for the burgeoning field of mTBI research.

Keywords: Concussion; Evoked activation; Functional connectivity; Functional magnetic resonance imaging; Mild traumatic brain injury.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Brain Injuries / psychology
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology