News Release

Researchers use neuroimaging to measure early cognitive improvement after mild TBI

First study to detail working memory deficits and cognitive recovery during initial week after concussion

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Kessler Foundation

WEST ORANGE, NJ September 21, 2015. Researchers published results of a novel study of the functional activation patterns of working memory after mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). This study, the first to enroll subjects during their initial evaluation in the emergency room, provides new information on the acute effects of TBI on cognition. The fMRI studies, conducted at <72 hours after injury and at one week after TBI, provide neuroimaging evidence for working memory deficits during the week following injury.

The article, Cognitive improvement after mild traumatic brain injury measured with functional neuroimaging during the acute period, was published by PLOS ONE (doi: 10.137/journal.pone.0126110). The authors are Glenn Wylie of Kessler Foundation and the War-related Illness and Injury Study Center of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, East Orange VA Hospital, and Kalev Freeman, Alex Thomas, Marina Shpaner, Michael O'Keefe, Richard Watts, and Magdalena Taylor of the University of Vermont.

Forty-six participants were enrolled; 27 with isolated mild TBI and 19 controls who had nonsurgical extremity injuries and no head trauma. All underwent fMRI and Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT). At one week followup, 64% of the TBI subjects reported moderate to complete recovery. Cognitive improvement corresponded with normalization of activation patterns on fMRI.

"We were interested in the effect of concussion on working memory immediately following injury and after one week of recovery," explained Glenn Wylie, DPhil, associate director of the Rocco Ortenzio Neuroimaging Center at Kessler Foundation. "We found increased activation in TBI subjects compared with controls," noted Dr. Wylie. "Also, activation increased as workload increased in the TBI group, and increases were greater in those whose cognition failed to improve. This study is the first step toward understanding the early effects of mild TBI on cognition. Predicting recovery will require the development of effective, low-cost measures that correlate with changes in patterns of brain activation."


The study was funded by an internal grant from the Department of Surgery at the University of Vermont (K.F.) and Kessler Foundation.

About TBI Research at Kessler Foundation

Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, is director of Neuroscience & TBI Research and project director of the Northern New Jersey TBI System (NNJTBIS), a collaborative effort of Kessler Foundation, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, and local hospitals. John DeLuca, PhD is co-project director. NNJTBIS is one of 16 federally funded model systems that form a national comprehensive system of care, research, education and dissemination aimed at improving quality of life for people with TBI. NNJTBIS is supported by grant #H133A120030 from the National Institute on Independent Living & Disability & Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). In addition to NIDRR and the Department of Defense, TBI research is funded by the New Jersey Commission on Brain Injury Research, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and Children's Specialized Hospital. Neuroimaging studies are conducted at the Rocco Ortenzio Neuroimaging Center at Kessler Foundation. Kessler researchers and clinicians have faculty appointments in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit

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