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. 2018;32(13-14):1740-1748.
doi: 10.1080/02699052.2018.1511067. Epub 2018 Sep 5.

Saccadic Impairment in Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury: Examining the Influence of Cognitive Load and Injury Severity

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Saccadic Impairment in Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury: Examining the Influence of Cognitive Load and Injury Severity

Mark L Ettenhofer et al. Brain Inj. .

Abstract

Objective: Previous research suggests that saccadic eye movements can be uniquely sensitive to impairment in chronic traumatic brain injury (TBI). This study was conducted to examine saccadic eye movements across varying levels of cognitive load and TBI history/severity. We hypothesized that saccadic impairment in chronic mild and moderate-severe TBI would be most pronounced under conditions of high cognitive load.

Methods: In total, 61 participants (including n = 20 with chronic mild TBI, n = 15 with chronic moderate-severe TBI, and 26 uninjured controls) completed a battery of conventional neuropsychological tests and the Fusion n-Back Test, which measures manual and saccadic response time (RT) across varying cognitive load and cueing conditions.

Results: Consistent with our hypotheses, chronic mild and moderate-severe TBI were associated with substantial saccadic impairment under conditions of high cognitive load. Participants with moderate-severe TBI also demonstrated saccadic impairment at low levels of cognitive load. TBI groups and uninjured controls did not differ significantly on manual metrics or conventional neuropsychological measures.

Conclusions: This study provides additional support for the value of eye tracking for enhanced assessment of TBI. Additionally, findings suggest that TBI is associated with greatest susceptibility to oculomotor interference under high levels of cognitive load.

Keywords: Eye tracking; TBI; attention; cognitive load; saccades.

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