Every year more than a million Americans sustain a concussion mainly as a result of car accidents or falls. While most people recover with no lasting ill effects as many as 30% suffer permanent impairment. Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University, New York compared 20 people known to have suffered a concussion with 20 healthy controls. Although conventional brain imaging was unable to spot any differences in the brains of the two groups the people who had suffered a concussion performed significantly worse on tests of executive function. However, a new more sensitive type of brain-scanning called diffusion tensor imaging, which measures water moving around in the brain did find abnormal brain regions in 15 of the concussion patients. The damaged areas were located mainly in the prefrontal cortex, which is essential for normal executive function and is susceptible to injury in concussion. The presence of major areas of structural damage in concussion patients predicted low scores on the executive function tests.
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