Scientists discover deficits in processing pace in people with spinal twine damage

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A team of rehabilitation researchers studied the processing speed deficits in people with spinal cord injury (SCI) and compared their brain activation patterns with those of age-appropriate controls and older healthy individuals. They found that the SCI group and older controls had similar activation patterns, but the SCI group was significantly different from their age-matched controls.

The article "The neural mechanisms underlying processing speed deficits in people with spinal cord injury: A pilot study" (DOI: 10.1007 / s10548-020-00798-x) was published on September 25, 2020 by Brain Topography. The authors are scholars with expertise in research into cognitive rehabilitation and SCI rehabilitation: Glenn Wylie, DPhil, Nancy D. Chiaravalloti, Erica Weber, Helen Genova and Trevor Dyson-Hudson, MD, of the Kessler Foundation, and Jill M. Wecht, EdD, of the James J. Peters VA Medical Center.

Individuals with chronic SCI are at increased risk of cognitive deficits that are similar to those associated with the aging process, leading to the "accelerated cognitive aging" theory. As previously reported by this team, the deficits affect processing speed, new learning and memory, and verbal language skills, which are affected as we age. This study is the first to examine the neural mechanisms of higher order cognitive tasks in individuals with SCI. The focus was on processing speed, which is known to be affected by SCI and aging and is an essential part of cognitive function and everyday activities.

The 30 participants were participants in a larger study that went through optional neuroimaging studies at the Kessler Foundation's Rocco Ortenzio Neuroimaging Center – 10 people with cervical SCI, 10 age-matched controls, and 10 healthy elderly people. In addition to conventional neuropsychological test methods, the processing speed in the scanner was tested using time-controlled letter comparison tasks during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This study was the first to use the modified letter comparison test.

Significant differences in brain activation were found between the SCI group and the age-matched control group, but the SCI and older groups showed similar patterns, including activation of the hippocampal, frontal and parietal areas. "This suggests that individuals with SCI make up for deficits in processing speed by relying on the areas of the brain that are involved in executive control and memory," noted Dr. Chiaravalloti, "who supports the theory of accelerated aging of the brain according to SCI."

Despite the limitations of the sample size and the degree of injury, according to Dr. Wylie, director of the Ortenzio Center, made an important contribution to our understanding of the effects of SCI on cognition. "Our ability to observe brain activation while the individual is performing certain cognitive tasks provides new information on the mechanisms underlying the cognitive deficits that we now know affect a significant portion of the SCI population," said Dr. Wylie. "The development of therapies that target these deficiencies depends on our pursuit of this line of research, which can benefit other populations affected by slower processing speeds."

The researchers identify specific cognitive deficits in people with spinal cord injuries

More information:
Glenn R. Wylie et al., The Neural Mechanisms Underlying Processing Speed ​​Deficits in Individuals Who Have Suffered a Spinal Cord Injury: A Pilot Study, Brain Topography (2020). DOI: 10.1007 / s10548-020-00798-x

Provided by
Kessler Foundation

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Scientists investigate deficits in processing speed in people with spinal cord injuries
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