BACKGROUND: Event-related potentials have repeatedly revealed electrophysiological markers of cognitive dysfunction associated with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) and may represent a sensitive tool to guide cognitive rehabilitative interventions. We previously found patients with symptomatic MTBI characterized by smaller P300 (or P3) wave amplitudes in a NoGo-P3 subcomponent in the acute phase of the injury. The goal of this longitudinal study was to investigate whether this early NoGo-P3 subcomponent differs over time in symptomatic MTBI patients and healthy controls.
METHODS: We included adults with a diagnosis of MTBI and individually matched healthy controls tested at 1 week, 3 months, and 1 year after the MTBI. Symptoms were assessed by the Rivermead Post-Concussion Symptoms Questionnaire. NoGo-P3 was collected by using a cued Go/NoGo task and the relevant subcomponent was extracted by independent component analysis.
RESULTS: Among 53 adults with a diagnosis of MTBI and 53 controls, we included 35 with symptomatic MTBI and 35 matched healthy controls (18 females each group; mean age 34.06±13.15 and 34.26±12.98 years). Amplitudes for the early NoGo-P3 subcomponent were lower for symptomatic MTBI patients than controls (P<0.05) at 1 week post-injury. Furthermore, mixed ANOVA revealed a significant time by group interaction (P<0.05), so the effect of time differed for symptomatic MTBI patients and healthy controls. The amplitudes for MTBI patients normalized from 1 week to 3 months post-injury and were comparable to those of controls from 3 months to 1 year post-injury. However, amplitudes for 3 MTBI patients with particularly severe complaints 1 year post-injury did not normalize and were lower than those for the remaining MTBI sample (P<0.05).
CONCLUSIONS: Selected event-related potentials can be used as a sensitive and objective tool to illustrate the cognitive consequences of and recovery after MTBI.