Past research has found an association between moderate and severe traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and attention issues, but a new study shows even mild TBI – including concussions – may contribute to long-term problems with attention in children.
The study, published online Aug. 3 in the journal Pediatrics, found children between 6- and 13-years old who experience these lapses in memory also show lower behavior and intelligence ratings by their teachers and parents after brain injury.
“Parents, teachers and doctors should be aware that attention impairment after traumatic brain injury can manifest as very short lapses in focus, causing children to be slower,” said study researcher Marsh Konigs, a doctoral candidate at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
The report says the loss of focus was found even in children who showed no obvious brain damage on scans.
For the study, the team of researchers compared 113 children who had been hospitalized with TBI against 53 children who had a trauma injury not involving the head. The injuries, including all levels from mild to severe, occurred over 18 months before assessment on average.
The participants underwent tests of mental functioning and their parents and teachers completed questionnaires at least two months after injuries.
According to the findings, the brain-injured group showed slower processing speed, and their attention lapses were longer than those noted in other children. Unlike other research however, the researchers found no difference in other types of attention, such as executive attention. Executive attention is the ability to resolve conflict between competing responses.
The researchers do note that although the findings indicate a link exists between TBI and attention problems, the study does not confirm a direct cause-and-effect relationship.