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Brain Commun



Vestibular/ocular motor symptoms in concussed adolescents are linked to retrosplenial activation.


Manelis A, Lima Santos J P, Suss SJ, Holland CL, Stiffler RS, Bitzer HB, Mailliard S, Shaffer MA, Caviston K, Collins MW, Phillips ML, Kontos AP, Versace A
Brain Commun. 2022; 4(3):fcac123.
PMID: 35615112.


Following concussion, adolescents often experience vestibular and ocular motor symptoms as well as working memory deficits that may affect their cognitive, academic and social well-being. Complex visual environments including school activities, playing sports, or socializing with friends may be overwhelming for concussed adolescents suffering from headache, dizziness, nausea and fogginess, thus imposing heightened requirements on working memory to adequately function in such environments. While understanding the relationship between working memory and vestibular/ocular motor symptoms is critically important, no previous study has examined how an increase in working memory task difficulty affects the relationship between severity of vestibular/ocular motor symptoms and brain and behavioural responses in a working memory task. To address this question, we examined 80 adolescents (53 concussed, 27 non-concussed) using functional MRI while performing a 1-back (easy) and 2-back (difficult) working memory tasks with angry, happy, neutral and sad face distractors. Concussed adolescents completed the vestibular/ocular motor screening and were scanned within 10 days of injury. We found that all participants showed lower accuracy and slower reaction time on difficult (2-back) versus easy (1-back) tasks (-values < 0.05). Concussed adolescents were significantly slower than controls across all conditions ( < 0.05). In concussed adolescents, higher vestibular/ocular motor screening total scores were associated with significantly greater differences in reaction time between 1-back and 2-back across all distractor conditions and significantly greater differences in retrosplenial cortex activation for the 1-back versus 2-back condition with neutral face distractors (-values < 0.05). Our findings suggest that processing of emotionally ambiguous information (e.g. neutral faces) additionally increases the task difficulty for concussed adolescents. Post-concussion vestibular/ocular motor symptoms may reduce the ability to inhibit emotionally ambiguous information during working memory tasks, potentially affecting cognitive, academic and social functioning in concussed adolescents.