Prefrontal Cortex Activity During Gait in People With Persistent Symptoms After Concussion


Background: Concussions result in transient symptoms stemming from a cortical metabolic energy crisis. Though this metabolic energy crisis typically resolves in a month, symptoms can persist for years. The symptomatic period is associated with gait dysfunction, the cortical underpinnings of which are poorly understood. Quantifying prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity during gait may provide insight into post-concussion gait dysfunction. The purpose of this study was to explore the effects of persisting concussion symptoms on PFC activity during gait. We hypothesized that adults with persisting concussion symptoms would have greater PFC activity during gait than controls. Within the concussed group, we hypothesized that worse symptoms would relate to increased PFC activity during gait, and that increased PFC activity would relate to worse gait characteristics. Methods: The Neurobehavior Symptom Inventory (NSI) characterized concussion symptoms. Functional near-infrared spectroscopy quantified PFC activity (relative concentration changes of oxygenated hemoglobin [HbO2]) in 14 people with a concussion and 25 controls. Gait was assessed using six inertial sensors in the concussion group. Results: Average NSI total score was 26.4 (13.2). HbO2 was significantly higher ( P = .007) for the concussed group (0.058 [0.108]) compared to the control group (−0.016 [0.057]). Within the concussion group, HbO2 correlated with NSI total symptom score (ρ = .62; P = .02), sagittal range of motion ( r = .79; P = .001), and stride time variability ( r = −.54; P = .046). Conclusion: These data suggest PFC activity relates to symptom severity and some gait characteristics in people with persistent concussion symptoms. Identifying the neurophysiological underpinnings to gait deficits post-concussion expands our knowledge of motor behavior deficits in people with persistent concussion symptoms.

Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair