Brain Imaging and Behavior

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 1108–1116 | Cite as

Neurophysiological correlates of persistent psycho-affective alterations in athletes with a history of concussion

  • Robert Davis MooreEmail author
  • William Sauve
  • Dave Ellemberg
Original Research


Understanding the neuropathological underpinnings of sport-related concussion are critical for diagnosis, prognosis, and remediation. Although electro-encephalographic (EEG) methods have proven invaluable for understanding psycho-affective pathologies in various clinical conditions, they have not been used to understand the psycho-affective outcomes of concussive injuries. Accordingly, we evaluated the relation of electroencephalographic (EEG) power in collegiate athletes to psycho-affective measures. We predicted that athletes with a history of concussion would exhibit alterations in frontal EEG asymmetries indicative of increased depression, anxiety and more general mood disturbance. During this cross-sectional study, resting EEG and measures of mood and affect, including the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) and Profile of Mood States (POMS) were collected in 81 young-adult male athletes (52 concussion history; 29 controls). All athletes with a history of concussion (9+ months from injury) reported to be symptom free, and all participants were actively taking part in their sport at the time of testing. Compared to control athletes, the athletes with a history of concussion exhibited alterations in frontal-alpha and frontal-beta asymmetry (p’s < .05). Correlational analyses revealed that alterations in frontal-alpha asymmetry were related to self-reported depression and anxiety, and alterations in beta-asymmetry were related to self-reported anger/aggression, but these relations were only significant for athletes with a history of concussion. The current study suggests that athletes with a history of concussion who made a complete return to play and reported to be asymptomatic on a commonly used symptom checklist may still exhibit neural activity associated with increased levels of depression, anxiety and anger/hostility. The current results reinforce the clinical necessity for long-term evaluations of athletes irrespective of apparent symptom resolution, and suggest that EEG may serve as a sensitive tool to identify and track concussion-related alterations in psycho-affective health before they manifest as clinical disorders.


Concussion Brain function Affect Electroencephalogram 


Compliance with ethical standards


This study was funded by a Canadian Institute of Health Research grant (#R0017986), awarded to Dave Ellemberg.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Davis Moore
    • 1
    Email author
  • William Sauve
    • 1
  • Dave Ellemberg
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MontrealMontrealCanada

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