Post-Concussion Symptoms, Cognition and Brain Connectivity in an Australian Undergraduate Population: A Quantitative Electroencephalography Study

Francesca Buhagiar, Melinda Fitzgerald, Jason Bell, Sarah C. Hellewell, Sammy Moore, Carmela Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: An estimated 99 in 100,000 people experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI), with 85% being mild (mTBI) in nature. The Post-Concussion Symptom Scale (PCSS), is a reliable and valid measure of post-mTBI symptoms; however, diagnostic specificity is challenging due to high symptom rates in the general population. Understanding the neurobiological characteristics that distinguish high and low PCSS raters may provide further clarification on this phenomenon. Aim: To explore the neurobiological characteristics of post-concussion symptoms through the association between PCSS scores, brain network connectivity (using quantitative electroencephalography; qEEG) and cognition in undergraduates. Hypotheses: high PCSS scorers will have (1) more network dysregulation and (2) more cognitive dysfunction compared to the low PCSS scorers. Methods: A sample of 40 undergraduates were divided into high and low PCSS scorers. Brain connectivity was measured using qEEG, and cognition was measured via neuropsychological measures of sustained attention, inhibition, immediate attention, working memory, processing speed and inhibition/switching. Results: Contrary to expectations, greater frontoparietal network dysregulation was seen in the low PCSS score group (p = 0.003). No significant difference in cognitive dysfunction was detected between high and low PCSS scorers. Post-hoc analysis in participants who had experienced mTBI revealed greater network dysregulation in those reporting a more recent mTBI. Conclusions: Measuring post-concussion symptoms alone is not necessarily informative about changes in underlying neural mechanisms. In an exploratory subset analysis, brain network dysregulation appears to be greater in the early post-injury phase compared to later. Further analysis of underlying PCSS constructs and how to measure these in a non-athlete population and clinical samples is warranted.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA28
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Integrative Neuroscience
Volume22
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2023

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