Processing Speed May Worsen Working Memory Problems in Pediatric TBI

Man with Head Pain

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) accounts for approximately 30% of injuries among children. Vital mental capacities such as processing speed and working memory develop rapidly during childhood and may be disrupted by TBI, adversely affecting children’s learning and comprehension capabilities.

A recent study in Texas found that children who had experienced TBI in the past performed more poorly on tasks assessing processing speed and working memory. Children’s performance on processing speed tasks, such as reaction time and serial addition, declined as the severity of TBI increased. Though group differences in severity were not significant for working memory tasks, children with TBI did perform more poorly on verb and visual-spatial tasks than their healthy peers.

Importantly, problems with processing speed after TBI seem to underlie deficits in working memory. These findings have significant implications for school-age children with TBI, who may fall behind their peers in performance on school assignments and may require extra time on academic assessments in the classroom.

Resources: Gorman S, Barnes MA, Swank PR, et al. Does processing speed mediate the effect of pediatric traumatic brain injury on working memory? Neuropsychology. (March 2015).

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