Children who suffer even mild brain injuries may experience momentary lapses in attention long after their accident, new research finds. The study of 6- to 13-year-olds found these attention lapses led to lower behaviour and intelligence ratings by their parents and teachers. “Parents, teachers and doctors should be aware that attention impairment after traumatic brain injury can manifest as very short lapses in focus, causing children to be slower,” said study researcher Marsh Konigs, a doctoral candidate at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands. This loss of focus was apparent even when scans showed no obvious brain damage, the researchers said.
For the study, published online in the journal Paediatrics, researchers compared 113 children who had been hospitalised with a traumatic brain injury with 53 children who had a trauma injury not involving the head. The injuries, which ranged from mild to severe, occurred more than 18 months earlier on average. The researchers tested mental functioning and evaluated questionnaires completed by parents and teachers at least two months after the injuries. The head-injured group had slower processing speed, the researchers found. And their attention lapses were longer than those noted in the other children. But unlike other research, no differences were reported in other types of attention, such as executive attention – the ability to resolve conflict between competing responses.