Head injuries can make children loners

April 10, 2014

New research has found that a child's relationships may be a hidden casualty long after a head injury.

Neuroscientists at Brigham Young University studied a group of children three years after each had suffered a – most commonly from car accidents. The researchers found that lingering in a specific region of the brain predicted the health of the children's social lives.

"The thing that's hardest about is that someone can have significant difficulties but they still look okay," said Shawn Gale, a neuropsychologist at BYU. "But they have a harder time remembering things and focusing on things as well and that affects the way they interact with other people. Since they look fine, people don't cut them as much slack as they ought to."

Gale and Ph.D. student Ashley Levan authored a study to be published April 10 by the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, the leading publication in the field of rehabilitation. The study compared the children's social lives and thinking skills with the thickness of the brain's outer layer in the . The brain measurements came from MRI scans and the social information was gathered from parents on a variety of dimensions, such as their children's participation in groups, number of friends and amount of time spent with friends.

A second finding from the new study suggests one potential way to help. The BYU scholars found that physical injury and social withdrawal are connected through something called "cognitive proficiency." Cognitive proficiency is the combination of short-term memory and the brain's processing speed.

"In social interactions we need to process the content of what a person is saying in addition to simultaneously processing nonverbal cues," Levan said. "We then have to hold that information in our working memory to be able to respond appropriately. If you disrupt working memory or processing speed it can result in difficulty with social interactions."

Separate studies on children with ADHD, which also affects the frontal lobes, show that therapy can improve working memory. Gale would like to explore in future research with BYU's MRI facility if improvements in working memory could "treat" the social difficulties brought on by .

"This is a preliminary study but we want to go into more of the details about why and processing speed are associated with social functioning and how specific structures might be related to improve outcome," Gale said.

Explore further: Can traumatic brain injury impair a child's working memory?

Related Stories

Can traumatic brain injury impair a child's working memory?

September 26, 2013

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) during childhood can have long-term effects on cognitive and psychosocial functioning, including poor academic achievement. Pediatric TBI can cause significant deficits in working memory, as demonstrated ...

Are concussions related to Alzheimer's disease?

December 26, 2013

A new study suggests that a history of concussion involving at least a momentary loss of consciousness may be related to the buildup of Alzheimer's-associated plaques in the brain. The research is published in the December ...

Study: Computer training for ADHD students misses the mark

January 15, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Popular computer-based training programs designed to improve behavior or academic performance in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, do not deliver on their intent, according ...

Memory's crucial impact on maintaining social bonds

March 4, 2014

Memory's crucial impact on our ability to establish and maintain social bonds is the focus of a new book, "Examining the Role of Memory in Social Cognition" (Frontiers), edited by Cornell neuroscientist Nathan Spreng.

Green tea boosts your brain

April 7, 2014

Green tea is said to have many putative positive effects on health. Now, researchers at the University of Basel are reporting first evidence that green tea extract enhances the cognitive functions, in particular the working ...

Recommended for you

Umbilical cells help eye's neurons connect

November 24, 2015

Cells isolated from human umbilical cord tissue have been shown to produce molecules that help retinal neurons from the eyes of rats grow, connect and survive, according to Duke University researchers working with Janssen ...

Brain connections predict how well you can pay attention

November 24, 2015

During a 1959 television appearance, Jack Kerouac was asked how long it took him to write his novel On The Road. His response – three weeks – amazed the interviewer and ignited an enduring myth that the book was composed ...

No cable spaghetti in the brain

November 24, 2015

Our brain is a mysterious machine. Billions of nerve cells are connected such that they store information as efficiently as books are stored in a well-organized library. To this date, many details remain unclear, for instance ...

Neurons encoding hand shapes identified in human brain

November 23, 2015

Neural prosthetic devices, which include small electrode arrays implanted in the brain, can allow paralyzed patients to control the movement of a robotic limb, whether that limb is attached to the individual or not. In May ...

Wireless sensor enables study of traumatic brain injury

November 23, 2015

A new system that uses a wireless implant has been shown to record for the first time how brain tissue deforms when subjected to the kind of shock that causes blast-induced trauma commonly seen in combat veterans.

Neuroscientists reveal how the brain can enhance connections

November 18, 2015

When the brain forms memories or learns a new task, it encodes the new information by tuning connections between neurons. MIT neuroscientists have discovered a novel mechanism that contributes to the strengthening of these ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.