Neurotrauma Rep. 2023 May 15;4(1):318-329. doi: 10.1089/neur.2022.0068. eCollection 2023.
Cognitive impairment after traumatic brain injury (TBI) is persistent and disabling. Assessing cognitive function in a reliable and valid manner, using measures that are sensitive to the integrity of underlying neural substrates, is crucial in clinical research. The Attention Network Test (ANT) is one such assessment measure that has demonstrated associations with neural regions involved in attention; however, clinical utility of the ANT is limited because its relationship with neuropsychological measures of cognitive function (i.e., its construct validity) has not yet been established in TBI. We evaluated the association between the ANT and 1) a neuropsychological battery assessing executive function and memory and 2) global function assessed by the Glasgow Outcome Scale-Extended (GOSE). Forty-eight adults with complicated mild-severe TBI were evaluated ∼5 months post-injury. Using principal component analysis and multi-variate linear regression adjusted for age, gender, education, and cause of injury, we found that ANT reaction time and executive network scores predicted a principal component assessing processing speed and executive function. Conversely, the ANT did not predict a principal component assessing memory. The ANT was weakly associated with the GOSE. Among persons with TBI during the post-acute phase of recovery, the ANT has good construct validity as evidenced by its associations with neuropsychological measures of processing speed and executive function, but not memory. Given that ANT networks are known to relate to specific neuroanatomical regions, the ANT may be a useful outcome measure for evaluating novel therapeutics targeting attention and executive functions after TBI.