Brain bases of recovery following cognitive rehabilitation for traumatic brain injury: a preliminary study

Sarah I. Gimbel, Mark L. Ettenhofer*, Evelyn Cordero, Michael Roy, Leighton Chan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Many patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) have persistent cognitive deficits, including decreased attention and working memory. This preliminary study examined fMRI data from a clinical trial implementing a 4-week virtual reality driving intervention to assess how sustained training can improve deficits related to traumatic brain injury. Previously-reported behavioral findings showed improvements in working memory and processing speed in those who received the intervention; this report explores the brain bases of these effects by comparing neural activity related to working memory (n-back task) and resting state connectivity before and after the intervention. In the baseline visit (n = 24), working memory activity was prominent in bilateral DLPFC and prefrontal cortex, anterior insula, medial superior frontal gyrus, left thalamus, bilateral supramarginal / angular gyrus, precuneus, and left posterior middle temporal gyrus. Following intervention, participants showed less global activation on the n-back task, with regions of activity only in the bilateral middle frontal cortex, posterior middle frontal gyrus, and supramarginal gyrus. Activity related to working memory load was reduced for the group that went through the intervention (n = 7) compared to the waitlist control group (n = 4). These results suggest that successful cognitive rehabilitation of working memory in TBI may be associated with increased efficiency of brain networks, evidenced by reduced activation of brain activity during cognitive processing. These results highlight the importance of examining brain activity related to cognitive rehabilitation of attention and working memory after brain injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-420
Number of pages11
JournalBrain Imaging and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Intervention
  • Rehabilitation
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • fMRI
  • n-back


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