Temporal Network Analysis of Neurocognitive Functioning and Psychological Symptoms in Collegiate Athletes after Concussion

J Neurotrauma - 2023

Liebel, S. W., Turner, C. G., Svirsko, A. C., Garcia, G. P., Pasquina, P. F., McAllister, T. W., McCrea, M. A., Broglio, S. P. and Investigators, C. C..



Sport-related concussion (SRC) is associated with several post-injury consequences, including neurocognitive decrements and psychological distress. Yet, how these clinical markers interact with each other, the magnitude of their interrelationships, and how they may vary over time following SRC are not well understood. Network analysis has been proposed as a statistical and psychometric method to conceptualize and map the complex interplay of interactions between observed variables (e.g., neurocognitive functioning and psychological symptoms). For each collegiate athlete with SRC (n = 565), we constructed a temporal network as a weighted graph, with nodes, edges, and the set of weights associated with each edge at three time-points (baseline, 24-48 h post-injury, and asymptomatic), that graphically depicts the interrelated nature of neurocognitive functioning and symptoms of psychological distress throughout the recovery process. This graph shows that the inter-group relationships between neurocognitive functioning and symptoms of psychological distress were stronger at the 24-48 h time-point than at baseline or at the asymptomatic time-point. Further, all symptoms of psychological distress and neurocognitive functioning significantly improved from the 24-48 h time-point to asymptomatic status. The effect sizes of these changes ranged from 0.126 (small) to 0.616 (medium). This research suggests that significant improvements in symptoms of psychological distress appear necessary to drive related improvements in neurocognitive functioning and vice versa. Therefore, clinical interventions should consider the importance of managing psychological distress during the acute care of individuals with SRC to help ameliorate negative outcomes.

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