White matter integrity of the medial forebrain bundle and attention and working memory deficits following traumatic brain injury

Jacqueline A. Owens, Gershon Spitz, Jennie L. Ponsford, Alicia Dymowski, Nicholas Ferris, Catherine Willmott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Objective: The medial forebrain bundle (MFB) contains ascending catecholamine fibers that project to the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Damage to these fibers following traumatic brain injury (TBI) may alter extracellular catecholamine levels in the PFC and impede attention and working memory ability. This study investigated white matter microstructure of the medial MFB, specifically the supero-lateral branch (slMFB), following TBI, and its association with performance on attention and working memory tasks. Method: Neuropsychological measures of attention and working memory were administered to 20 moderate-severe participants with TBI (posttraumatic amnesia M = 40.05 ± 37.10 days, median time since injury 10.48 months, range 3.72-87.49) and 20 healthy controls. Probabilistic tractography was used to obtain fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) values for 17 participants with TBI and 20 healthy controls. Results: When compared to controls, participants with TBI were found to have significantly lower FA (p < .001) and higher MD (p < .001) slMFB values, and they were slower to complete tasks including Trail Making Task-A, Hayling, selective attention task, n-back, and Symbol Digit Modalities Test. Conclusion: This study was the first to demonstrate microstructural white matter damage within the slMFB following TBI. However, no evidence was found for an association of alterations to this tract and performance on attentional tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00608
Number of pages11
JournalBrain and Behavior
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • Attention
  • Medial forebrain bundle
  • Traumatic brain injury

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