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Teens Fare Worst After Concussions

Concussions affect the thinking of teenagers more than they do that of adults or children, according to a new study. But all three age groups show lasting problems with working memory after sports concussions.

People use working memory for reading, problem solving and manipulating information. It's controlled by the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain. And that part of the brain matures during adolescence. "It likely makes it more vulnerable", says Dave Ellemberg, a professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Montreal who led the study.

The study, which tested the thinking of 96 people about six months on average after they sustained a concussion, found that children had deficits as great as those in adults.

"Often parents and coaches will think that a child's brain is more resilient," Ellemberg told Shots. "That's not the case. Even 6 to 8 months after the injury, we find marked deficits."

What's interesting about this study is that it tested the participants' thinking two different ways. The participants took tests of memory and thinking speed used by the National Hockey League. And they also took tests while their brain activity was measured by an electroencephalogram.

Other recent research has found that the tests used by professional sports teams and, increasingly, by college and high school teams, aren't all that good at detecting the long-term effects of concussion.

Ellemberg says that in earlier tests he did with EEGs, even if people did well on the standard neuropsychological tests after a concussion, their brains were working differently than usual in order to get the job done. This, he says, shows that "that the brain is struggling much more than it normally would to complete the tasks." The findings were published in the journal Brain Injury.

In addition to working memory, the participants' ability to sustain attention and focus was also affected six months to 1 year after the injury.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Game Of Thrones' Evolves On Women In Explosive Sixth Season

The sixth season of HBO's Game of Thrones showed a real evolution in the way the show portrays women and in the season finale, several female characters ascended to power. NPR's Kelly McEvers talks to Glen Weldon from NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour and Greta Johnsen, host of the Nerdette podcast, about the show.
NPR

In Quest For Happier Chickens, Perdue Shifts How Birds Live And Die

Perdue Farms, one of the largest poultry companies in the country, says it will change its slaughter methods and also some of its poultry houses. Animal welfare groups are cheering.
WAMU 88.5

Jonathan Rauch On How American Politics Went Insane

Party insiders and backroom deals: One author on why we need to bring back old-time politics.

WAMU 88.5

Episode 5: Why 1986 Still Matters

In 1986, a federal official issued a warning: If Metro continued to expand rapidly, the system faced a future of stark choices over maintaining existing infrastructure. Metro chose expansion. We talk to a historian about that decision. We also hear from a former Metro general manager about the following years, and from an Arlington planner about measuring how riders are responding to SafeTrack.

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