Working memory in youth following sports-related concussion: is it still working? an fMRI study

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To compare working memory performance and related brain activity using fMRI in concussed youth and healthy age-matched control subjects.


Standard T1 and T2* weighted echo planar images for blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) were collected on a 3Tesla System with a 32 channel head coil while subjects performed verbal and nonverbal working memory tasks. fMRIstat was used to analyse the data.


Participants were purposively recruited between 2007 and 2010 from The Montreal Children's Hospital Trauma Programs.


15 concussed youth (8 females, 7 males, mean age=14.47±2.29 years) and 15 age-matched control subjects (7 females, 8 males, mean age=14±2.3 years).



Outcome Measures

Post-Concussion Scale—Revised, accuracy and reaction time (RT) on a verbal and nonverbal working memory task.


Post-concussion symptoms were higher for concussed versus control participants. The concussed group demonstrated significantly poorer accuracy but equivalent RT on the working memory task. Greater percent BOLD signal change from baseline to task was observed for control versus concussed participants in the left and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, left premotor cortex, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, supplementary motor area, left superior parietal lobule, left thalamus and left caudate nucleus. Activity in the left and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortices positively correlated with task accuracy.


Compared to adults, concussed youth may be unable to engage to the same extent compensatory strategies to maintain cognitive performance following neuronal injury. Greater caution in clinical management is therefore recommended.


Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) and Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation (ONF).

Competing interests


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