Concussions and their Impact.

In two recent studies presented at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s annual meeting, concerns were raised about concussions and the impact they have on cognitive abilities. These researches believe that concussions have a negative impact on the athletes and individuals who suffer from this injury, especially in their mental functioning. They worry that the concussions may have long term and widespread effects on their mental health.

Study Number One: Visual Working Memory

In the first study, the researchers found that concussions have an effect on a person’s visual working memory. This refers to the ability to remember specific things you have seen. Scientists always knew the working memory was impacted by the injury, however, in this new study the evidence suggested that the impact lasts much longer than they originally believed.

To test this theory, two groups of people were given a visual memory test. The first group consisted of people ranging in age from 18 to 80, and the second a group consisted of college students averaging around age 21. Each group was made up of both people who had suffered from concussions and also people who had not. The participants in the study were shown a picture and then seconds later another image was shown and they were asked if it was the same image as before. Overall, the people who had never experienced a concussion answered the questions more accurately (for the most part) than those who had history with a concussion. The results showed that regardless of how old these people were or when their concussions occurred, those who had a concussion previously in their life did worse on the memory test.

Visual working memory is a well-known and well-discussed topic in psychology. In class when we talked about working memory, we related it to tests like the digit span which is used to determine the holding capacity of working memory. This is similar to the study that was used in the experiment which tested visual working memory. Both tests were forms of looking at working memory in different ways to compare how our brains work when compared with other’s.

Study Number Two: Attention Defects

The second study looked at individuals and their ability to pay attention. Researches found that people with concussions in their medical history had a general lack of awareness in social situations compared to those who hadn’t. The participants in the study were given an MMN test. This test involved showing a person a flashing letter M on the screen and then switching it to an N to measure if the brain activity spiked when the letter switched. This would indicate that the person was indeed paying attention to the activity. The results showed that people who had concussions in their lifetime did not have the same spike that those who had not did. This meant that the concussions in their history affected their attention abilities. Again, concussions had a negative impact on the individual’s mental health.

In cognitive psychology some of the topics we focus on include attention, memory, problem-solving and thinking. It is clear that both of these studies look at how people process information and their ability to perform certain tasks based on whether they have experienced a concussion before compared to if they had never had that type of brain injury. Scientists that conducted this study plan to do additional testing on how concussions affect people’s thinking abilities. However, until then, it is pretty clear that based on the evidence in these two studies, it can be said that concussions have a negative impact on a person’s mental health and their ability to use working memory or pay attention to their surroundings.

As an athlete, I found this study to be interesting and also a little bit alarming based on the evidence shown. It’s crazy to think a game I play today could affect my mental skills when I’m older and more developed in life. The results that these scientists found indicate that people (like myself) who play sports and put themselves at a higher risk for brain injuries like concussions to occur have a greater chance of developing mental functioning problems¬†later on in life. That is the scary reality that all athletes put themselves at risk for their own entertainment, but also in some cases for money or popularity. Hopefully in the future better research can be done to help prevent so many concussions from occurring in today’s world.


6 thoughts on “Concussions and their Impact on Cognition

  1. sjohns25

    I’m really glad you choice to use this as your topic. Being another athlete I has know a lot of people who have suffered from major concussions. I really like how you broke it in to two sub topics it made it very easy to read and follow.

    In the first part about vision I could really see how the study was conducted. I have taken plenty of concussions tests and I have never had a concussion and they are extremely hard to remember everything so I can see how it would be hard for someone who has suffered from one. When I was in the gym on day my friend was helping a fellow team mate move an item from the platform so it couldn’t get crushed. It slipped from his hand and fell on her head. I didn’t really relies how bad a concussion could be until seeing how long it took her to come back to all normal cognitive ability.

    I would really like to learn more about if the location of the trauma that caused the concussion effect how there cognitive abilities are effected. Has there been research as well on how men and women may recover differently from concussions? Also are there any types of activities that help you recover fast than others? Lastly do we really know any long term effects that multiply concussions can cause over a life time?

    1. mshifflett4 Post author

      I really like the questions you asked because I would also like to see the differences among men and women when it comes to the abilities being effected. Being a female athlete, most of the injuries that I’ve seen have occurred to women so I would like to see more about males dealing with concussions. I will definitely try to look more into this topic for the next post because I would also like to expand more on some of the information and see if there has been any further research done.

  2. Ellie Benning

    Like you mentioned athletes are at a greater risk of concussions. Being an athlete as well I have had a fair share of concussions sadly and have actually been in some studies dealing with concussions.
    You mentioned just the tests on working memory and attention, sadly there are so many problems concussions cause. With these tests they preformed it would be interesting to see and compare people with different amounts of concussions to see if they have a huge difference on the tests as well that way you can see the bigger picture. It was vey interesting to see that you did pick working memory and attention because these two things are everyday things that we do. It shows what an impact concussions can have on everyday life. Would you have any suggestions with athletes on how to prevent concussions, if there should be protocol changes to help limit the amount of concussions?

    1. mshifflett4 Post author

      I feel like there isn’t really anything that can help prevent concussions from occurring, because sadly a lot of sports involve contact. The one positive thing is that more research and better prevention equipment is used today. The protective gear is more advanced in today’s world of sports than in the past. Hopefully in the future the number of concussions each year among athletes will continue to decline!

  3. awobken

    Its amazing how many different things effect cognition. I wonder if a person who suffered a concussion has similar difficulty with attention in the way that people with ADD or ADHD suffer? I wonder how Psychiatrists break it down when people come to them with issues of attention, would they consider the concussion?

    1. mshifflett4 Post author

      That’s a really good point to make. I would think that the two might be similar based on the fact that concussions do slow memory and affect attention and stuff. I agree that it is crazy how many things in our lives rely on cognition or some type of cognitive functioning.

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