Research Reports - Preservation of general intelligence following traumatic brain injury

PLoS One. 2014 Feb 26;9(2)

Barbey AK(1), Colom R(2), Paul E(3), Forbes C(4), Krueger F(5), Goldman D(6), Grafman J(7)

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) promotes survival and synaptic
plasticity in the human brain. The Val66Met polymorphism of the BDNF gene
interferes with intracellular trafficking, packaging, and regulated secretion of
this neurotrophin. The human prefrontal cortex (PFC) shows lifelong neuroplastic
adaption implicating the Val66Met BDNF polymorphism in the recovery of
higher-order executive functions after traumatic brain injury (TBI). In this
study, we examined the effect of this BDNF polymorphism on the preservation of
general intelligence following TBI. We genotyped a sample of male Vietnam combat
veterans (n = 156) consisting of a frontal lobe lesion group with focal
penetrating head injuries for the Val66Met BDNF polymorphism. Val/Met did not
differ from Val/Val genotypes in general cognitive ability before TBI. However,
we found substantial average differences between these groups in general
intelligence (≈ half a standard deviation or 8 IQ points), verbal comprehension
(6 IQ points), perceptual organization (6 IQ points), working memory (8 IQ
points), and processing speed (8 IQ points) after TBI. These results support the
conclusion that Val/Met genotypes preserve general cognitive functioning, whereas
Val/Val genotypes are largely susceptible to TBI.

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