July 24, 2018

A new pilot study by SMU scientists indicates that simple cognitive tasks performed as early as four days after a brain injury activate the region that improves memory function and may guard against developing depression or anxiety.

Currently, guidelines recommend that traumatic brain injury patients get plenty of rest and avoid physical and cognitive activity until symptoms subside.

But a new SMU study looking at athletes with concussions suggests total inactivity may not be the best way to recover after all.

“Right now, if you have a concussion the directive is to have complete physical and cognitive rest, no activities, no social interaction, to let your brain rest and recover from the energy crisis as a result of the injury,” said SMU physiologist Sushmita Purkayastha, who led the research, which was funded by the Texas Institute for Brain Injury and Repair at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas.

“But what we saw, the student athletes came in on approximately the third day of their concussion and the test was not stressful for them. None of the patients complained about any symptom aggravation as a result of the task. Their parasympathetic nervous system — which regulates automatic responses such as heart rate when the body is at rest — was activated, which is a good sign,” said Purkayastha, an assistant professor in the Department of Applied Physiology and Wellness.

Read more at SMU Research.