Introduction: Approximately, 275,000 American service members deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan have sustained a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), with 75% of these incidents involving an explosive blast. Visual processing problems and cognitive dysfunction are common complaints following blast-related mTBI. Methods: In 127 veterans, we examined resting fMRI functional connectivity (FC) of four key nodes within the visual system: lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN), primary visual cortex (V1), lateral occipital gyrus (LO), and fusiform gyrus (FG). Regression analyses were performed (i) to obtain correlations between time-series from each seed and all voxels in the brain, and (ii) to identify brain regions in which FC variability was related to blast mTBI severity. Blast-related mTBI severity was quantified as the sum of the severity scores assigned to each of the three most significant blast-related injuries self-reported by subjects. Correlations between FC and performance on executive functioning tasks were performed across participants with available behavioral data (n = 94). Results: Greater blast mTBI severity scores were associated with lower FC between: (A) LGN seed and (i) medial frontal gyrus, (ii) lingual gyrus, and (iii) right ventral anterior nucleus of thalamus; (B) V1 seed and precuneus; (C) LO seed and middle and superior frontal gyri; (D) FG seed and (i) superior and medial frontal gyrus, and (ii) left middle frontal gyrus. Finally, lower FC between visual network regions and frontal cortical regions predicted worse performance on the WAIS digit-symbol coding task. Conclusion: These are the first published results that directly illustrate the relationship between blast-related mTBI severity, visual pathway neural networks, and executive dysfunction - results that highlight the detrimental relationship between blast-related brain injury and the integration of visual sensory input and executive processes.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2016 Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
- Blast TBI
- Executive function
- Functional connectivity
- Rest fMRI
- TBI severity
- Traumatic brain injury