Children with traumatic brain injury may struggle with performance monitoring

Children Moving Around Living Room

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is associated with a number of emotional, behavioral, and cognitive deficits. These impairments can be particularly disruptive for children, whose neural networks are still developing. Some children who have experienced TBI exhibit impaired performance monitoring, a cognitive process that allows us to oversee the accuracy of our task performance and adjust it accordingly. Deficient performance monitoring may limit a child’s overall cognitive abilities and can impair the inhibit the development of self-regulation and social competence.

A recent Canadian study examined the influence of TBI on children’s performance monitoring. Researchers administered a stop-signal task – a computer assessment that requires children to balance speed and accuracy – to fifty-six children, half of whom had experienced TBI. The stop-signal task measured the children’s reaction times and the accuracy of their responses to certain signals. After analyzing the results of the task, researchers found that non-injured children were better able to monitor their errors during the task and make adjustments to reduce incorrect responses. In other words, when non-injured children made an error on the task, they slowed their reaction time to ensure that their future responses would be more accurate. Children with TBI did not exhibit the same performance monitoring capabilities.

Performance monitoring is critical to cognition, and children with TBI who experience monitoring deficits may be at risk of social, academic, and behavioral problems. Clinicians are advised to consider the importance of performance monitoring when crafting intervention programs for children with TBI.

Wilkinson AA, Dennis M, Taylor MJ, et al. Performance monitoring in children following traumatic brain injury compared to typically developing children. Child Neurology Open. (August 2017).

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