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Keywords:

  • Closed head injury;
  • Information processing;
  • Event–related potentials;
  • N200;
  • P300;
  • Reaction time

We evaluated alterations in information processing after closed head injury as a function of task demands and stimulus modality. Visual and auditory discrimination tasks were administered to 11 survivors of a head injury and 16 matched healthy controls. In auditory tasks, compared with controls, the survivors had smaller N100s, smaller and later N200s, a more posterior scalp distribution of N200, and longer P300 and response latencies. Auditory N200 and P300 correlated highly with duration of unconsciousness. In contrast, in visual tasks, only a reduced N200 in the survivors differentiated the groups. Our results indicate that processing of auditory stimuli, including the perception and discrimination of stimulus features and the evaluation and categorization of stimuli, may be impaired after head trauma. Visual sensory processing may be spared, but higher–order visual processing involved in stimulus classification may be compromised.