Determinants of social behavior deficits and recovery after pediatric traumatic brain injury

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) during early childhood is associated with a particularly high risk of developing social behavior impairments, including deficits in social cognition that manifest as reduced social interactions, with profound consequences for the individuals’ quality of life. A number of pre-injury, post-injury, and injury-related factors have been identified or hypothesized to determine the extent of social behavior problems after childhood TBI. These include variables associated with the individual themselves (e.g. age, genetics, the injury severity, and extent of white matter damage), proximal environmental factors (e.g. family functioning, parental mental health), and more distal environmental factors (e.g. socioeconomic status, access to resources). In this review, we synthesize the available evidence demonstrating which of these determinants influence risk versus resilience to social behavior deficits after pediatric TBI, drawing upon the available clinical and preclinical literature. Injury-related pathology in neuroanatomical regions associated with social cognition and behaviors will also be described, with a focus on findings from magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging. Finally, study limitations and suggested future directions are highlighted. In summary, while no single variable can alone accurately predict the manifestation of social behavior problems after TBI during early childhood, an increased understanding of how both injury and environmental factors can influence social outcomes provides a useful framework for the development of more effective rehabilitation strategies aiming to optimize recovery for young brain-injured patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-45
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • Behavior
  • Development
  • Environment
  • Neurotrauma
  • Pediatric
  • Resiliency
  • Risk factor
  • Social
  • Traumatic brain injury

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