Research Reports - Arithmetic difficulties in children with mild traumatic brain injury at the subacute stage of recovery

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2015 Nov;57(11):1042-8. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.12858. Epub 2015
Aug 13.

Van Beek L(1), Ghesquière P(1), De Smedt B(1), Lagae L(2).

AIM: Arithmetic difficulties have been reported in children with mild traumatic
brain injury (mTBI), but the electrophysiological abnormalities underlying these
impairments remain unknown. We therefore used event-related potentials (ERPs) to
investigate brain functioning during arithmetic in children in the subacute phase
after mTBI.
METHOD: The participants comprised 16 children with mTBI at the subacute phase of
recovery (10 males, mean age 10y 8mo; six females, mean age 10y 8mo) and 16
well-matched comparison children (11 males, mean age 10y 11mo; five females, mean
age 10y 6mo). All children were asked to solve single-digit addition problems of
small (sum ≤10) and large problem size (sum >10) and ERPs were simultaneously
recorded.
RESULTS: Children with mTBI performed significantly less accurately (mean 81%)
than comparison children (mean 91%) on the large (p=0.026) but not on the small
problems (p=0.171). We observed no group differences in the early ERP components
P1, N1, P2, and N2 (all p values ≥0.241), yet significant group differences
(p=0.019) emerged for the late positivity component (LPC), which showed smaller
mean amplitudes (mean 8.35μV) in mTBI patients than comparison children (mean
12.95μV).
INTERPRETATION: Immediately after the injury, arithmetic difficulties in children
with mTBI are particularly pronounced on more complex arithmetical problems that
are less automated. This is reflected in the ERP pattern, with decreased LPC but
normal N2 and early ERP components. 

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