Some of the most disabling aspects of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) include lingering deficits in executive functioning. It is known that mTBI can damage white matter tracts, but it remains unknown how this structural brain damage translates into cognitive deficits. This experiment utilized theta band phase synchrony to identify the dysfunctional neural operations that contribute to cognitive problems following mTBI. Sub-acute stage (< 2 weeks) mTBI patients (N = 52) and healthy matched controls (N = 32) completed a control-demanding task with concurrent EEG. Structural MRI was also collected. While there were no performance-specific behavioral differences between groups in the dot probe expectancy task, the degree of theta band phase synchrony immediately following injury predicted the degree of symptom recovery two months later. Although there were no differences in fractional anisotropy (FA) between groups, joint independent components analysis revealed that a smaller network of lower FA-valued voxels contributed to a diminished frontal theta phase synchrony network in the mTBI group. This finding suggests that frontal theta band markers of cognitive control are sensitive to sub-threshold structural aberrations following mTBI.
Keywords: Brain injury; Control; DTI; EEG; Executive; Theta; mTBI.