Traumatic brain injury (TBI) during critical periods of early-life brain development can affect the normal formation of brain networks responsible for a range of complex social behaviors. Because of the protracted nature of brain and behavioral development, deficits in cognitive and socioaffective behaviors may not become evident until late adolescence and early adulthood, when such skills are expected to reach maturity. In addition, multiple pre- and post-injury factors can interact with the effects of early brain insult to influence long-term outcomes. In recent years, with advancements in magnetic-resonance-based neuroimaging techniques and analysis, studies of the pediatric population have revealed a link between neurobehavioral deficits, such as social dysfunction, with white matter damage. In this review, in which we focus on contributions from Australian researchers to the field, we have highlighted pioneering longitudinal studies in pediatric TBI, in relation to social deficits specifically. We also discuss the use of advanced neuroimaging and novel behavioral assays in animal models of TBI in the immature brain. Together, this research aims to understand the relationship between injury consequences and ongoing brain development after pediatric TBI, which promises to improve prediction of the behavioral deficits that emerge in the years subsequent to early-life injury.
- neurobehavioral deficits
- pediatric traumatic brain injury
- social dysfunction