Head Injuries can cause Social Incompetence in Children

Researchers have found that’s years after a head incident, children continue to experience injury in the brain.

April 10, 2014—Traumatic brain injury in children lingers in the brain’s right frontal lobe, which is associated with lower social competence, according to Shawn D. Gale and his team of researches at Brigham Young University.

Traumatic brain injury in children lingers in the right frontal lobe of the brain, which results in a lower social competence.

The neuroscience research team studied a group of children who had suffered from traumatic brain injury three years prior, primarily due to car accidents. The scientists studied the right frontal lobe of each participant’s brain, assessing their level of social competence and cognitive proficiency. The frontal lobes are considered the emotional control center and home to an individual’s personality. The right frontal lobe plays a significant role in nonverbal activities.

“The thing that is hardest about brain injury is that someone can have significant difficulties but they still look okay,” said Shawn D. Gale. “But they have a harder time remembering things and focusing on things as well and that affects the way they interact with other people. Since they look fine, people do not cut them as much slack as they ought to.”

Twenty-three children were studied at least 1 year after injury occurred. Their cognitive proficiency was evaluated with the Cognitive Proficiency Index (CPI) from the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. The CPI tests the proficiency with which a person processes certain types of information, which ultimately summarizes the performance of the working memory. Social competence was evaluated with the Social Competence and Social Problems subscales from the child Behavior Checklist. Social competence is a multidimensional concept consisting of social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral skills that are necessary for successful social adaption.

The study linked the evaluated children’s social lives and thinking skills with the thickness of the outer layer in the frontal lobe of the brain. The brain measurements came from MRI scans. It was found that there was a direct effect of right frontal lobe thickness on social competence. This shows that after an initial head incident, children were found to have lingering injury in the right frontal lobe of the brain. Because the right frontal lobe is directly associated with social competence, children who experience such traumatic head injuries showed less participation in groups and number of friends.

“This is a preliminary study, but we want to go into more of the details about why working memory and processing speed are associated with social functioning and how specific brain structures might be related to improve outcome,” Gale concluded.

Kayleigh Makoid

Dickinson College

Brigham Young University. (2014, April 10). Head injuries can make children loners. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 12, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140410083505.htm

Ashley Levan, Leslie Baxter, C. Brock Kirwan, Garrett Black, Shawn D. Gale. Right Frontal Pole Cortical Thickness and Social Competence in Children With Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1097/HTR.0000000000000040

About Kayleigh Makoid