Specific cognitive deficits in individuals with spinal cord injury

The article, “Patterns of cognitive deficits in persons with spinal cord injury as compared with both age-matched and older individuals without spinal cord injury,” was e-published ahead of print on December 3, 2018 by the Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine. The authors are scientists with expertise in cognitive rehabilitation and SCI rehabilitation: Nancy D. Chiaravalloti, PhD, Erica Weber, PhD, Glenn Wylie, DPhil, and Trevor Dyson-Hudson, MD, from Kessler Foundation, and Jill M. Wecht, EdD, from the James J. Peters VA Medical Center.

Individuals with chronic SCI have an increased risk for cognitive impairment, which can adversely affect recovery and overall quality of life. Concomitant brain injury fails to account for the increased risk for cognitive deficits. Multiple factors contribute to the high incidence — up to 60 percent demonstrate some degree of cognitive impairment.

Developing effective interventions is dependent on precise knowledge of the types of deficits. To explore this question, the team administered a battery of neuropsychological tests to 3 groups: 60 individuals with spinal cord injury (32 paraplegia, 28 tetraplegia), 30 age-matched controls, and 20 older healthy controls. None of the tests required motor ability; these included the WAIS-III Digit Span and Letter-Number Sequencing; Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT) — oral version; California Verbal Learning Test-II; Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT); the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI); Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System; and the Verbal Fluency subtest.

Significant differences were found between the SCI group and the age-matched control group, according to Dr. Chiaravalloti, director of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Research, and director of the Northern New Jersey TBI Model System. “The individuals with SCI had deficits in information processing speed, verbal fluency, and new learning and memory,” noted Dr. Chiaravalloti, “while their attention and working memory were unaffected. As we had postulated, their neuropsychological profile more closely aligned with that of older healthy controls. This could be a sign of accelerated brain aging after SCI, a phenomenon that has been associated with other neurological conditions.”

“People often focus on mobility impairments associated with SCI; however, addressing cognitive deficits in this population is also critically important,” said co-author Dr. Dyson-Hudson, director of SCI Research, and director of the Northern New Jersey SCI Model System. “Future research needs to be based on broader measures of neuropsychological function. Identifying modifiable risk factors and developing targeted cognitive interventions will help restore maximal function, and support the efforts of individuals to participate in their communities and the workforce.”

Top Articles

Phytochemicals: beyond vitamins

Phytochemicals are non-nutritive chemicals in plant foods that protect plants from microbial invasions and infections.

Read More

Targeting an RNA-binding protein to fight aging

Researchers have found that the RNA-binding protein PUM2 contributes to the accumulation of defective mitochondria, a key feature of the aging process. Targeting PUM2 in old animals protects against age-related mitochondrial dysfunction.

Read More

People in Canada have good health, are living longer: Global Burden of Disease Study trends

Data from the Global Burden of Disease Study shows that the overall health of Canadians is good and is consistent with other similar countries, and people are living longer with diseases.

Read More

Latest News

Larger drug trials that intervene earlier needed for Alzheimer’s disease

There are currently no drugs that stop or inhibit Alzheimer’s disease. Despite drug trials showing plaque reduction in the brain, the patients’ cognitive function did not improve. Would the results be different if it were possible to design studies that intervene much earlier on in the disease, before cognition is affected? This is what an international study has attempted to facilitate.

Read

Indications why older people are more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease

The risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease increases with age. Medical researchers have uncovered a possible cause for this connection: Certain molecules involved in the disease, termed tau-proteins, spread more easily in the aging brain.

Read

Combat veterans more likely to experience mental health issues in later life

Military veterans exposed to combat were more likely to exhibit signs of depression and anxiety in later life than veterans who had not seen combat, a new study shows.

Read

“Our bodies are our gardens - our wills are our gardeners.”

William Shakespeare