Background. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is associated with altered white matter organization and impaired cognitive functioning. Objective. We aimed to investigate changes in white matter and cognitive functioning following computerized cognitive training. Methods. Sixteen adolescents with moderate-to-severe TBI (age 15.6 ± 1.8 years, 1.2-4.6 years postinjury) completed the 8-week BrainGames program and diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) and cognitive assessment at time point 1 (before training) and time point 2 (after training). Sixteen healthy controls (HC) (age 15.6 ± 1.8 years) completed DWI assessment at time point 1 and cognitive assessment at time point 1 and 2. Fixel-based analyses were used to examine fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), and fiber cross-section (FC) on a whole brain level and in tracts of interest. Results. Patients with TBI showed cognitive impairments and extensive areas with decreased FA and increased MD together with an increase in FC in the body of the corpus callosum and left superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF) at time point 1. Patients improved significantly on the inhibition measure at time point 2, whereas the HC group remained unchanged. No training-induced changes were observed on the group level in diffusion metrics. Exploratory correlations were found between improvements on verbal working memory and reduced MD of the left SLF and between increased performance on an information processing speed task and increased FA of the right precentral gyrus. Conclusions. Results are indicative of positive effects of BrainGames on cognitive functioning and provide preliminary evidence for neuroplasticity associated with cognitive improvements following cognitive intervention in TBI.
Keywords: cognitive training; diffusion weighted imaging; fixel-based analysis; neuroplasticity; traumatic brain injury.