CIHR funds York study on concussion recovery in working-age adults

New funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) will support a York-led study to investigate the influence of sex-related differences in cognitive-motor integration on concussion recovery in working-age adults.

Lauren Sergio

Lauren Sergio

CIHR will provide $401,625 in funding over five years to Professor Lauren Sergio, York Research Chair in Brain Health and Skilled Performance and principal investigator of the study.

Sergio will undertake the study along with co-investigators from York's Faculty of Health, Associate Professor Heather Edgell and Professor Alison Macpherson, and York Adjunct Professor Jennifer Campos (University of Toronto).

The impact of concussion and related brain injuries on working-aged adults, and the effect of mild brain insult on functional abilities, is not well understood. Previous research shows that "cognitive-motor integration" (CMI) – or tasks that rely on rules to plan a movement – is impaired following concussion. This directly affects an individual's ability to think and act simultaneously, something crucial for safe performance at work, in sports and activities of daily living.

"Our work has produced an effective assessment tool that sensitively detects functional impairment in working-aged adults at risk for dementia, and for youth recovering from concussion," said Sergio. "We have also demonstrated the neural underpinnings to this functional impairment. Separately, we have documented that different types of skilled movements are processed in separate brain networks, networks that are not the same for females and males."

The goals of this present research, said Sergio, are twofold: First, the CMI assessment research will be extended to middle-aged adults, a group not studied to date yet one in which individuals may have both concussion history and a known dementia risk; second, sex- and age-related differences in CMI will be characterized in working aged adults, a time that spans nearly 50 years and passes into the post-menopausal age for women.

Methodological approaches the researchers plan to undertake include integrated sensory, motor, and cognitive behavioural assessment as well as a neurophysiological (MRI) and hormonal measures.

The project aims to provide a basic understanding of how our brains process rule-based information to make accurate movements in our everyday lives. Clinically, this research aims to provide insight into the effects of brain injury on rule-based movement control, particularly in those who are experiencing extended recovery times, and characterize sex- and age-related differences in this functional behaviour.

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