Procedural Learning Impairments Identified via Predictive Saccades in Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury

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ObjectiveTo characterize integrity of fronto-striatal circuitry in chronic traumatic brain injury (TBI).BackgroundDue to both direct and indirect effects, TBI is hypothesized to affect frontal and striatal function. On the basis of elegant animal, lesion, and neuroimaging literatures, oculomotor testing can provide a useful tool for in vivo assessments of neurophysiologic function. The predictive saccade paradigm in oculomotor function is well established to provide assessment of this fronto-striatal circuit.MethodsSixty patients with a history of chronic TBI completed 2 specific tests of oculomotor function, including a test of reflexive visually guided saccades to assess basic oculomotor function and a predictive saccade test to assess procedural learning.ResultsTBI (mild and moderate/severe) was associated with a decrease in rates of procedural learning, with degree of impairment increasing with injury severity. This was observed as a decrease in the proportion of anticipatory saccades (primary measure of learning).ConclusionsThis abnormal oculomotor performance supports the hypothesis that TBI results in chronic impairment of frontal-striatal functions proportionally to injury severity and demonstrate that oculomotor testing is sensitive to all severities of closed-head injury.

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