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Suppressing and flexibly adapting actions are a critical part of our daily behavioral repertoire. Traumatic brain injury ( TBI ) patients show clear impairments in this type of action control; however, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Here, we tested whether white matter integrity of cortico-subcortical pathways could account for impairments in task switching, an important component of executive functioning. Twenty young adults with TBI and eighteen controls performed a switching task requiring attention to global versus local stimulus features. Diffusion weighted images were acquired and whole brain tract-based spatial statistics ( TBSS ) were used to explore where white matter damage was associated with switching impairment. A crossing fiber model and probabilistic tractography further identified the specific fiber populations. Relative to controls, patients with a history of TBI had a higher switch cost and were less accurate. The TBI group showed a widespread decline in fractional anisotropy ( FA ) throughout the TBSS skeleton. FA in the superior corona radiata showed a negative relationship with switch cost. More specifically, this involved cortico-subcortical loops with the ( pre- )supplementary motor area and superior frontal gyrus. These findings provide evidence for damage to frontal-subcortical projections in TBI, which is associated with task switching impairments.

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Journal Article

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