Concussions may have lasting and widespread effects on a person’s cognitive abilities, according to two new studies presented here at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s annual meeting.
In one study, presented on Sunday (April 3), researchers found that a concussion’s effect on visual working memory — the ability to remember specific things you have seen — may last much longer than scientists had thought.
There’s been an assumption that a concussion can affect a person’s thinking skills for several weeks, the researchers said. But the new study showed that the effects may last as long as 55 years.
The researchers looked at two groups: one group of 43 people who ranged in age from 18 to 80, and another group of 20 college students, whose average age was 21. Each group included some people who had a concussion and some who had never experienced one.
The study showed that regardless of people’s age or how long it had been since they experienced a concussion, those who had suffered a concussion in their lives did worse on a test of visual working memory than did those who had never had a concussion.
To test working visual memory, the participants were very briefly shown an image, said Hector Arciniega, the lead researcher on the study and a graduate student in neuroscience at the University of Nevada, Reno. Then, a second image would appear, and the participants were asked whether this was the same image from earlier, he said.