Cognitive intervention for impairments in attention and executive function in children with traumatic brain injury.

Doctors Reviewing Tablet and Brain Scans

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) in children often causes deficits in attention and executive function, so intervention strategies aimed at children with TBI-related cognitive impairments are of great clinical importance. A group of researchers investigated the effectiveness of one such intervention strategy, a training program known as the Attention Improvement and Management (AIM). This program uses computerized attention tasks and cognitive strategies that target child-specific deficits, and it can be tailored to fit each child’s individual progress.

Thirteen children with mild to severe TBI participated in the AIM program over a period of 10 weeks, receiving cognitive assessment before the program to determine their baseline functioning. In addition, 11 healthy controls underwent cognitive testing at two time points, but did not participate in the AIM program. Children with TBI showed significant improvement in one of seven cognitive outcome metrics (sustained attention) compared to the control group, and parents reported improvement in attention and learning. Interestingly, sustained attention is the only area that showed a significant discrepancy between the TBI group and control group at the first testing time point, suggesting that training such as the AIM program is only effective in areas in which there is a significant deficiency. Parent-reported outcomes did show improvements in all tests of executive function between the two time points.

The researchers note that their small sample size was a limitation of this study. Given a larger sample size, follow-up studies would benefit by exploring the relationship between treatment dose and outcome.

Treble-Barna, Amery, et al. "Cognitive Intervention for Attention and Executive Function Impairments in Children With Traumatic Brain Injury: A Pilot Study." The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation. (November 2016).

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