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Cognitive Fatigue Following Brain Injury Documented in New Study

A recent study by Kessler Foundation Research Center published in Brain Injury, the official journal of the International Brain Injury Association, uncovered the possible cause of cognitive fatigue in patients suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI). Cognitive fatigue has been shown to be one of the most challenging symptoms following TBI, greatly affecting everyday life activities such as work and school.

The study also addressed the difficult task of measuring cognitive fatigue through the use of functional MRI (fMRI), an advanced imaging technology.   It is hoped that this information will also be useful in addressing the symptoms of traumatic brain injury in returning service members.

It has been reported that 73 percent of TBI patients report significant levels of fatigue even five years after they have sustained brain trauma.
 
A roadblock in the progress for treating patients for cognitive fatigue is the availability of  assessment tools. Researchers have been struggling for nearly a century to find ways to measure and diagnose cognitive fatigue. Common methods include self-reporting and objective assessments. This study offers a new and innovative paradigm to investigate brain activation during a cognitive task.
 
The study entitled “The Neural Correlates of Cognitive Fatigue in Traumatic Brain Injury Using Functional MRI” (Kohl et al, Brain Injury 2009;23(5):420-32),  details how fMRI was utilized to assess cognitive fatigue in people with TBI while they were performing behavioral tasks.  Researchers compared the readings of eleven healthy controls with those of eleven participants with moderate to severe TBI. The fMRI images illustrated increased brain activity in the patients with TBI, which indicates greater cerebral effort indicative of cognitive fatigue. 

“Cognitive fatigue has been shown to be one of the most debilitating symptoms after a traumatic brain injury. It can hinder every aspect of a person’s life,” stated John DeLuca, Ph.D., one of the study author’s. “The study could potentially improve the quality of life for civilians and veterans with TBI as well as stroke survivors and individuals with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and AIDs.”

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