Researchers have identified specific cognitive deficits in individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI). Their findings support the theory of accelerated aging after SCI, they suggest, in The Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine.
The team includes scientists with expertise in cognitive rehabilitation and SCI rehabilitation, from both Kessler Foundation and the James J. Peters VA Medical Center.
Individuals with chronic SCI have an increased risk for cognitive impairment, which can adversely affect recovery and overall quality of life. Concomitant brain injury fails to account for the increased risk for cognitive deficits. Multiple factors contribute to the high incidence — up to 60% demonstrate some degree of cognitive impairment.
Developing effective interventions is dependent on precise knowledge of the types of deficits. To explore this question, the team administered a battery of neuropsychological tests to three groups: 60 individuals with spinal cord injury (32 paraplegia, 28 tetraplegia), 30 age-matched controls, and 20 older healthy control, explains a media release from Kessler Foundation.
None of the tests required motor ability; these included the WAIS-III Digit Span and Letter-Number Sequencing; Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT) — oral version; California Verbal Learning Test-II; Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT); the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI); Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System; and the Verbal Fluency subtest.
Significant differences were found between the SCI group and the age-matched control group, according to the researchers.
“The individuals with SCI had deficits in information processing speed, verbal fluency, and new learning and memory, while their attention and working memory were unaffected,” notes Nancy D. Chiaravalloti, PhD, director of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Research, and director of the Northern New Jersey TBI Model System, in the release.
“As we had postulated, their neuropsychological profile more closely aligned with that of older healthy controls. This could be a sign of accelerated brain aging after SCI, a phenomenon that has been associated with other neurological conditions.”
Co-author Trevor Dyson-Hudson, MD, director of SCI Research, and director of the Northern New Jersey SCI Model System, adds, “People often focus on mobility impairments associated with SCI; however, addressing cognitive deficits in this population is also critically important.”
“Future research needs to be based on broader measures of neuropsychological function. Identifying modifiable risk factors and developing targeted cognitive interventions will help restore maximal function, and support the efforts of individuals to participate in their communities and the workforce.”
[Source(s): Kessler Foundation, Science Daily]