J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2023 Sep 19:271678X231197188. doi: 10.1177/0271678X231197188. Online ahead of print.
Dynamic changes in neurodevelopment and cognitive functioning occur during adolescence, including a switch from reactive to more proactive forms of cognitive control, including response inhibition. Pediatric mild traumatic brain injury (pmTBI) affects these cognitions immediately post-injury, but the role of vascular versus neural injury in cognitive dysfunction remains debated. This study consecutively recruited 214 sub-acute pmTBI (8-18 years) and age/sex-matched healthy controls (HC; N = 186), with high retention rates (>80%) at four months post-injury. Multimodal imaging (functional MRI during response inhibition, cerebral blood flow and cerebrovascular reactivity) assessed for pathologies within the neurovascular unit. Patients exhibited increased errors of commission and hypoactivation of motor circuitry during processing of probes. Evidence of increased/delayed cerebrovascular reactivity within motor circuitry during hypercapnia was present along with normal perfusion. Neither age-at-injury nor post-concussive symptom load were strongly associated with imaging abnormalities. Collectively, mild cognitive impairments and clinical symptoms may continue up to four months post-injury. Prolonged dysfunction within the neurovascular unit was observed during proactive response inhibition, with preliminary evidence that neural and pure vascular trauma are statistically independent. These findings suggest pmTBI is characterized by multifaceted pathologies during the sub-acute injury stage that persist several months post-injury.