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Verbal learning differences in chronic mild traumatic brain injury

  • ELIZABETH K. GEARY (a1) (a2), MARILYN F. KRAUS (a1) (a3) (a4), NEIL H. PLISKIN (a1) (a3) (a4) and DEBORAH M. LITTLE (a1) (a2) (a4) (a5)

Following mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), a percentage of individuals report chronic memory and attention difficulties. Traditional neuropsychological assessments often fail to find evidence for such complaints. We hypothesized that mild TBI patients may, in fact, experience subtle cognitive deficits that reflect diminished initial acquisition that can be explained by changes in cerebral white matter microstructure. In the data presented here, a sample of nonlitigating and gainfully employed mild TBI patients demonstrated statistically significant differences from age and education matched control participants in performance on the first trial of a verbal learning task. Performance on this trial was associated with reduced fractional anisotropy in the uncinate fasciculus and the superior longitudinal fasciculus providing an anatomical correlate for the cognitive findings. Mild TBI patients were not impaired relative to control participants on total learning or memory composite variables. Performance on the first learning trial was not related to any psychological variables including mood. We concluded that patients with mild TBI demonstrate diminished verbal learning that is not often interpreted in standard neuropsychological assessment. (JINS, 2010, 16, 506–516.)

Corresponding author
*Correspondence and reprint requests to: Deborah M. Little, Department of Neurology, MC 796, 912 South Wood Street 855 N, Chicago, Illinois 60612. E-mail:
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