Simultaneous Measurement of Perceptual and Motor Cortical Potentials: Implications for Assessing Information Processing in Traumatic Brain Injury

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Abstract

Objective:

Psychomotor slowing is a common manifestation of traumatic brain injury. Previous electrophysiological studies of traumatic brain injury have focused on abnormal attentional and perceptual responses to incoming stimuli. We hypothesize that traumatic brain injury is also associated with abnormal cortical components of motor execution.

Design:

To test this hypothesis, we analyzed event-related potentials of 22 subjects (11 with a history of severe traumatic brain injury and 11 age-matched healthy subjects) during oddball discrimination tasks. In addition to the usual stimulus-locked averaging of electrophysiological data to reveal cognitive components, such as the P300, we also analyzed subjects' response-locked data to reveal motor potential waveforms. To focus on generalized effects across modality, analyses were performed on composite measures from both auditory and visual event-related potentials.

Results:

(1) Traumatic brain injury subjects had abnormal P300 responses (with reduced amplitude and prolonged latency) in both sensory modalities. (2) Traumatic brain injury subjects' motor potential waveforms showed significantly reduced amplitude in both sensory modalities. (3) Abnormalities in P300 latency, amplitude, and motor potential amplitude (effect sizes = 1.2–1.5 SD) were greater than behavioral slowing, as measured by reaction times (0.7 SD). (4) P300 latency and motor potential amplitude together accounted for much of the reaction time prolongation (r = 0.73).

Conclusions:

This study demonstrates the value of concurrently analyzing stimulus-locked and response-locked event-related potential data to evaluate cortical components of perceptual and motor processing. The present findings indicate that patients with traumatic brain injury have impairments in both the perceptual interpretation of incoming stimuli and the execution of motor responses and that both abnormalities contribute to psychomotor slowing in patients with traumatic brain injury.

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