Fall 2014

Research Finds Computers Best at Detecting Concussions

Rock Braithwaite

YOU’VE HEARD IT SAID: “It’s all in your head.” Now an HSU professor has helped develop a way to find out if “it” really is.

Research conducted by Kinesiology Professor Rock Braithwaite has played a big role in showing the usefulness of computerized neurocognitive testing. And that work could change the way the medical community understands the long-term effects of sports-related concussions.

Braithwaite collaborated with former HSU professor Anthony Kontos, now at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, and two other University of Pittsburgh professors. Their study is considered the largest statistical review of computerized testing to date. It was published in the Journal of International Neuropsychological Society.

Braithwaite’s analysis focused on computerized neurocognitive testing. He evaluated prior research of published computerized concussion testing—37 studies and 3,960 participants all within the first week of sustaining a concussion. The study produced two key findings:

“ImPACT found the largest effects for individuals who had been concussed—across all outcomes,” said Braithwaite. “Memory, processing speed, recall … ImPACT was able to better detect changes compared to the other computerized tests.”

  • » Middle school and younger high school students show more pronounced effects and greater performance decline after a concussion than senior high school and college-aged counterparts.
  • » ImPACT—a computerized neurocognitive test designed to assess mild traumatic brain injury—was the most effective at detecting cognitive impairment. It indicates that computerized testing with near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is the most accurate evaluation method for concussions.