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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) causes cognitive impairment but it remains contested regarding which cognitive domains are most affected. Further, moderate-severe TBI is known to be deleterious, but studies of mild TBI (mTBI) show a greater mix of negative and positive findings. This study examines the longer-term cognitive effects of TBI severity and number of mTBIs in later life. We examined a subset (n = 15,764) of the PROTECT study, a cohort assessing risk factors for cognitive decline (ages between 50 and 90 years). Participants completed cognitive assessments annually for 4 years. Cognitive tests were grouped using a principal components analysis (PCA) into working memory, episodic memory, attention, processing speed, and executive function. Lifetime TBI severity and number were retrospectively recalled by participants using the Brain Injury Screening Questionnaire (BISQ). Linear mixed models (LMMs) examined the effect of severity of head injury (non-TBI head strike, mTBI, and moderate-severe TBI) and number of mTBI at baseline and over time. mTBI was considered as a continuous and categorical variable (groups: 0 mTBI, 1 mTBI, 2 mTBIs, 3 mTBIs, and 4+ mTBIs). Of the participants 5725 (36.3%) reported at least one mTBI and 510 (3.2%) at least one moderate-severe TBI, whereas 3711 (23.5%) had suffered at worst a non-TBI head strike and 5818 (32.9%) reported no head injuries. The participants had suffered their last reported head injury an average (standard deviation, SD) of 29.6 (20.0) years prior to the study. Regarding outcomes, there was no worsening in longitudinal cognitive trajectories over the study duration but at baseline there were significant cognitive deficits associated with TBI. At baseline, compared with those without head injury, individuals reporting at least one moderate-severe TBI had significantly poorer attention (B = -0.163, p < 0.001), executive scores (B = -0.151, p = 0.004), and processing speed (B = -0.075, p = 0.033). Those who had suffered at least a single mTBI also demonstrated significantly poorer attention scores at baseline compared with the no head injury group (B = -0.052, p = 0.001). Compared with those with no mTBI, those in the 3 mTBI group manifested poorer baseline executive function (B = -0.149, p = 0.025) and attention scores (B = -0.085, p = 0.015). At baseline, those who had suffered four or more mTBIs demonstrated poorer attention (B = -0.135, p 

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurotrauma

Publication Date





1423 - 1435


ageing, cognitive function, concussion, deficits, dementia, late life, longitudinal study, multiple concussion, repeated traumatic brain injury, severity, Humans, Middle Aged, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Cohort Studies, Retrospective Studies, Brain Injuries, Traumatic, Brain Concussion, Cognitive Dysfunction, Processing Speed, Neuropsychological Tests