Lingering Effects

November 22, 2017

Although it was assumed that the brain starts to heal relatively quickly following concussion, it may actually take longer than previously thought. Researchers at the University of Nebraska’s Center for Brain, Biology, and Behavior came to this conclusion by comparing cognitive responses for male athletes who had been diagnosed with concussions and those who hadn’t.

“A concussion is brain damage,” Dennis Molfese, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Nebraska, said in a school news release. “The brain’s design is incredible; up to a certain point it is able to compensate. But if you keep piling on the injuries, it loses that ability.” 

The study used high-density electroencephalography to analyze the brain’s electrical activity among participants. Findings showed a lag in cognitive response times of one-tenth to two-tenths of a second for athletes who had been concussed—a large difference. These players also required larger areas of the brain to be engaged for memory tasks.

“For those with a concussion, at least a year post-injury, their brains haven’t figured it out yet,” Dr. Molfese said.

One of the potential reasons for the delayed healing process is that the brain’s pathways constantly change. The circuits between neurons are usually regulated to improve efficiency. When a concussion occurs, however, the pathways are forced to reorganize to avoid the injured areas.

“Engaging more areas and forming new pathways take time,” Dr. Molfese said. “When you pull in other brain areas, the brain has to learn how to make a new network it has already spent years developing.” 


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