Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society

Research Articles

Verbal learning differences in chronic mild traumatic brain injury

ELIZABETH K. GEARYa1a2, MARILYN F. KRAUSa1a3a4, NEIL H. PLISKINa1a3a4 and DEBORAH M. LITTLEa1a2a4a5 c1

a1 Department of Neurology, The University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois

a2 Center for Stroke Research, The University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois

a3 Department of Psychiatry, The University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois

a4 Center for Cognitive Medicine, The University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois

a5 Departments of Anatomy, Ophthalmology, and Psychology, The University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois

Abstract

Following mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), a percentage of individuals report chronic memory and attention difficulties. Traditional neuropsychological assessments often fail to find evidence for such complaints. We hypothesized that mild TBI patients may, in fact, experience subtle cognitive deficits that reflect diminished initial acquisition that can be explained by changes in cerebral white matter microstructure. In the data presented here, a sample of nonlitigating and gainfully employed mild TBI patients demonstrated statistically significant differences from age and education matched control participants in performance on the first trial of a verbal learning task. Performance on this trial was associated with reduced fractional anisotropy in the uncinate fasciculus and the superior longitudinal fasciculus providing an anatomical correlate for the cognitive findings. Mild TBI patients were not impaired relative to control participants on total learning or memory composite variables. Performance on the first learning trial was not related to any psychological variables including mood. We concluded that patients with mild TBI demonstrate diminished verbal learning that is not often interpreted in standard neuropsychological assessment. (JINS, 2010, 16, 506–516.)

(Received October 12 2009)

(Reviewed January 07 2010)

(Accepted January 12 2010)

Correspondence:

c1 Correspondence and reprint requests to: Deborah M. Little, Department of Neurology, MC 796, 912 South Wood Street 855 N, Chicago, Illinois 60612. E-mail: little@uic.edu

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