Functional MRI of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI): Progress and perspectives from the first decade of studies

Brenna C. McDonald, Andrew J. Saykin, Thomas W. McAllister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) represents the great majority of traumatic brain injuries, and is a common medical problem affecting cognitive and vocational functioning as well as quality of life in some individuals. Functional MRI (fMRI) is an important research method for investigating the neuroanatomic substrates of cognitive disorders and their treatment. Surprisingly, however, relatively little research has utilized fMRI to examine alterations in brain functioning after mTBI. This article provides a critical overview of the published fMRI research on mTBI to date. These topics include examination of frontal lobe/executive functions such as working memory, as well as episodic memory and resting state/functional connectivity. mTBI has also been investigated in military populations where studies have focused on effects of blast injury and comorbid conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder. Finally, we address fMRI evaluations of response to behavioral or pharmacological challenges and interventions targeting cognitive and behavioral sequelae of mTBI. The review concludes with identification and discussion of gaps in current knowledge and future directions for fMRI studies of mTBI. The authors conclude that fMRI in combination with related methods can be expected to play an increasing role in research related to studies of pathophysiological mechanisms of the sequelae of mTBI as well as in diagnosis and treatment monitoring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-207
Number of pages15
JournalBrain Imaging and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2012


  • Episodic memory
  • Frontal lobes
  • Functional connectivity
  • Functional MRI
  • Mild traumatic brain injury
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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