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Attention Dynamics Consortium

2009 - 2013

Funded by James S. McDonell Foundation

Brain Trauma Foundation received a grant from the James S. McDonnell Foundation to put together the Attention Dynamics Consortium in Traumatic Brain Injury (ADC-TBI). ADC-TBI was a bicoastal initiative to further explore the brain’s attention networks and how they are affected by mTBI. This consortium includes researchers with unique areas of expertise who will come together to try and form a complete understanding of the brain’s attention networks. The ADC-TBI consists of researchers from UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, The Salk Institute and Washington University in St. Louis.

Currently, there is no causative explanation for the attention deficits and persistence of symptoms in TBI patients. The lack of a clear understanding of the mechanisms underlying concussive symptoms has important consequences for the diagnosis and treatment of these individuals.

We propose that cognitive deficits from mTBI arise from traumatic disruption of white matter connectivity in a neural network that sub-serves attention and working memory. Furthermore we posit that one crucial and vulnerable function of this neural network is to produce predictive timing in order to reduce temporal variability in performance. This is consistent with the prevalent finding in mTBI patients, and other pathologies of attention, of an increase in reaction time variability. We hypothesize that impairments in this anticipatory process likely contribute to the fact that approximately 20% of individuals with mTBI end up being classified as chronically disabled. This data will be collected through the use of structural imaging such as fMRI and MEG/EEG. Behavioral performance will be monitored using smooth pursuit eye movement tracking to assess predictive timing and performance variability in a continuous task that will enable on-line linkage of eye-tracking variability with network coherence measures.

The Brain Trauma Foundation will foster the collaboration and disseminate findings through interaction with other TBI organizations. This collaborative program will elucidate the neural and cognitive sequelae of TBI and increase our understanding of the mechanisms underlying attention. Importantly, the research will provide guidance in the development of new methods to recognize, treat and potentially prevent acute and chronic TBI symptoms.

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