Impaired Visual Integration in Children with Traumatic Brain Injury: An Observational Study

M. Konigs*, W.D. Weeda, L.W. van Ernest van Heurn, R.J. Vermeulen, J.C. Goslings, J.S. Luitse, B.T. Poll-The, A. Van Beelen, M. van der Wees, R.J. Kemps, C.E. Catsman-Berrevoets, J. Oosterlaan

*Corresponding author for this work

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BACKGROUND: Axonal injury after traumatic brain injury (TBI) may cause impaired sensory integration. We aim to determine the effects of childhood TBI on visual integration in relation to general neurocognitive functioning. METHODS: We compared children aged 6-13 diagnosed with TBI (n = 103; M = 1.7 years post-injury) to children with traumatic control (TC) injury (n = 44). Three TBI severity groups were distinguished: mild TBI without risk factors for complicated TBI (mildRF- TBI, n = 22), mild TBI with >/=1 risk factor (mildRF+ TBI, n = 46) or moderate/severe TBI (n = 35). An experimental paradigm measured speed and accuracy of goal-directed behavior depending on: (1) visual identification; (2) visual localization; or (3) both, measuring visual integration. Group-differences on reaction time (RT) or accuracy were tracked down to task strategy, visual processing efficiency and extra-decisional processes (e.g. response execution) using diffusion model analysis. General neurocognitive functioning was measured by a Wechsler Intelligence Scale short form. RESULTS: The TBI group had poorer accuracy of visual identification and visual integration than the TC group (Ps </= .03; ds </= -0.40). Analyses differentiating TBI severity revealed that visual identification accuracy was impaired in the moderate/severe TBI group (P = .05, d = -0.50) and that visual integration accuracy was impaired in the mildRF+ TBI group and moderate/severe TBI group (Ps < .02, ds </= -0.56). Diffusion model analyses tracked impaired visual integration accuracy down to lower visual integration efficiency in the mildRF+ TBI group and moderate/severe TBI group (Ps < .001, ds </= -0.73). Importantly, intelligence impairments observed in the TBI group (P = .009, d = -0.48) were statistically explained by visual integration efficiency (P = .002). CONCLUSIONS: Children with mildRF+ TBI or moderate/severe TBI have impaired visual integration efficiency, which may contribute to poorer general neurocognitive functioning.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0144395
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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