Brain Networks Subserving Emotion Regulation and Adaptation after Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

J Neurotrauma. 2016 Jan 1;33(1):1-9. doi: 10.1089/neu.2015.3905. Epub 2015 Aug 28.


The majority of patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) sustain a mild injury (mTBI). One out of 4 patients experiences persistent complaints, despite their often normal neuropsychological test results and the absence of structural brain damage on conventional neuroimaging. Susceptibility to develop persistent complaints is thought to be affected by interindividual differences in adaptation, which can also be influenced by preinjury psychological factors. Coping is a key construct of adaptation and refers to strategies to deal with new situations and serious life events. An important element of coping is the ability to regulate emotions and stress. The prefrontal cortex is a crucial area in this regulation process, given that it exerts a top-down influence on the amygdala and other subcortical structures involved in emotion processing. However, little is known about the role of the prefrontal cortex and associated brain networks in emotion regulation and adaptation post-mTBI. Especially, the influence of prefrontal dysfunction on development of persistent postconcussive complaints is poorly understood. In this article, we aim to integrate findings from functional and structural MRI studies on this topic. Alterations within the default mode, executive and salience network have been found in relation to complaints post-mTBI. Dysfunction of the medial prefrontal cortex may impair network dynamics for emotion regulation and adaptation post-mTBI, resulting in persistent post-concussive complaints.

Keywords: adaptation; brain networks; emotion regulation; mild traumatic brain injury; postconcussive complaints.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Brain Injuries / pathology
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / pathology
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome / pathology
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Self-Control*