Neural recruitment following mild traumatic brain injury is task-dependent: a meta-analysis

Open Access
Bryer, Emily Jane
Area of Honors:
Elective Area of Honors - Neurosciences
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Frank Gerard Hillary, Thesis Supervisor
  • William Ray, Honors Advisor
  • Mild traumatic brain injury
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Working memory
  • Cognitive control
Objective: Individuals with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) often have deficits in processing speed and working memory (WM) and there is a growing literature using functional imaging studies to document these deficits. However, divergent results from these studies revealed both hypoactivation and hyperactivation of neural resources after injury. We hypothesized that at least part of this variance can be explained by distinct demands between WM tasks. Notably, in this literature some WM tasks utilize discrete periods of encoding, maintenance and retrieval whereas others place continuous demands on WM. The purpose of this meta-analysis is to examine the differences in neural recruitment after mTBI to determine if divergent findings can be explained as a function of task demand and cognitive load. Method: A comprehensive literature review revealed fourteen studies using fMRI to examine brain activity of individuals with mTBI during working memory tasks. Three of the fourteen studies included reported hypoactivity, five reported hyperactivity, and the remaining six reported both hypoactivity and hyperactivity. Studies were grouped according to task type and submitted to Ginger ALE maximum likelihood meta-analyses to determine the most consistent brain activation patterns. Results: The primary findings from this meta-analysis suggest that the discrepancy in activation patterns is at least partially attributable to the classification of WM task, with hyperactivation being observed in continuous tasks and hypoactivation being observed during discrete tasks. Conclusion: We anticipate that differential task load expressed in continuous and discrete WM tasks contributes to these differences. Implications for the interpretation of fMRI signals in clinical samples are discussed.