The Effects of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury on Cognitive-Motor Integration for Skilled Performance

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Adults exposed to blast and blunt impact often experience mild traumatic brain injury, affecting neural functions related to sensory, cognitive, and motor function. In this perspective article, we will review the effects of impact and blast exposure on functional performance that requires the integration of these sensory, cognitive, and motor control systems. We describe cognitive-motor integration and how it relates to successfully navigating skilled activities crucial for work, duty, sport, and even daily life. We review our research on the behavioral effects of traumatic impact and blast exposure on cognitive-motor integration in both younger and older adults, and the neural networks that are involved in these types of skills. Overall, we have observed impairments in rule-based skilled performance as a function of both physical impact and blast exposure. The extent of these impairments depended on the age at injury and the sex of the individual. It appears, however, that cognitive-motor integration deficits can be mitigated by the level of skill expertise of the affected individual, suggesting that such experience imparts resiliency in the brain networks that underly the control of complex visuomotor performance. Finally, we discuss the next steps needed to comprehensively understand the impact of trauma and blast exposure on functional movement control.

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