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Keywords:

  • bimanual coordination;
  • cognitive control;
  • fMRI;
  • task switching;
  • traumatic brain injury

Abstract

The ability to suppress and flexibly adapt motor behavior is a fundamental mechanism of cognitive control, which is impaired in traumatic brain injury (TBI). Here, we used a combination of functional magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion weighted imaging tractography to study changes in brain function and structure associated with motor switching performance in TBI. Twenty-three young adults with moderate-severe TBI and twenty-six healthy controls made spatially and temporally coupled bimanual circular movements. A visual cue signaled the right hand to switch or continue its circling direction. The time to initiate the switch (switch response time) was longer and more variable in the TBI group and TBI patients exhibited a higher incidence of complete contralateral (left hand) movement disruptions. Both groups activated the basal ganglia and a previously described network for task-set implementation, including the supplementary motor complex and bilateral inferior frontal cortex (IFC). Relative to controls, patients had significantly increased activation in the presupplementary motor area (preSMA) and left IFC, and showed underactivation of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) region. This altered functional engagement was related to the white matter microstructural properties of the tracts connecting preSMA, IFC, and STN. Both functional activity in preSMA, IFC, and STN, and the integrity of the connections between them were associated with behavioral performance across patients and controls. We suggest that damage to these key pathways within the motor switching network because of TBI, shifts the patients toward the lower end of the existing structure-function-behavior spectrum. Hum Brain Mapp, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.