Brain Injury Related To Attention Troubles In Children

Children with traumatic brain injury are more likely to have attention problems and suffer from longer reaction times than those children who experience any other kind of bodily trauma.

The new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, is the first study to ever show the relationship between traumatic brain injury and a decline of attention in children. The study also showed that this decline is also related to intellect and attention troubles.

Marsh Konigs, of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, evaluated 113 children, between the ages of six and 13, who had experienced a traumatic brain injury. They also evaluated 53 children who experienced injuries that were not head related.

Approximately one and a half years after the injury, the study had parents and teachers rate the child’s alertness, orienting skills, and attention span. Not only was attention trouble rated higher in those with traumatic brain injury, but suppressed issues such as anxiety, and expressed issues, such as aggression, were also rated higher in those children who experienced a traumatic brain injury.

Reaction times were also found to be sluggish in those with traumatic brain injury as compared to those with other injuries.

Seventy-six children were classified as having a mild case traumatic brain injury and 37 were classified as having a moderate/severe case. Moderate/sever traumatic brain injury was defined as having lost consciousness for more than half an hour and also having experienced post-traumatic amnesia for at least one hour.

The moderate/severe traumatic brain injury group scored lower on IQ tests and also exhibited more attention troubles than the group with mild injury.

In the study, Konig reported that since the attention troubles persisted for more than a year after the injury, it is highly unlikely that they will ever stop.

Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of development and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, expressed that the findings of the study show that even mild head injuries could lead to problems in the future. Adesman was not involved in the study.

“This study provides further evidence of the importance of trying to minimize brain trauma, since even when there is no visible damage on CAT scans or MRIs, there can still be a significant adverse effect on attention span and behavior.”

Traumatic brain injury can occur from a strike to the head as a result of a sports injury, an assault, a transportation accident, or a fall. A concussion is classified as one type of traumatic brain injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2009 there were 248,418 hospitalization for traumatic brain injury, with the highest rates being among 10 to 19-year-old male children.

[Image via Allan Ajifo/Flickr]