J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 52:742-748 doi:10.1136/jnnp.52.6.742
  • Research Article

Reaction time after head injury: fatigue, divided and focused attention, and consistency of performance.

  1. D T Stuss,
  2. L L Stethem,
  3. H Hugenholtz,
  4. T Picton,
  5. J Pivik,
  6. M T Richard
  1. School of Medicine (Neurology), University of Ottawa, Canada.


      Three groups of patients who had suffered head injury were compared with matched control subjects on reaction time (RT) tasks. Group I consisted of outpatients previously hospitalised for head injury of wide ranging degrees of severity, assessed at varying intervals after injury. Group II was composed of non-hospitalised mildly concussed patients. Group III was made up of head injured patients of varying degrees of severity assessed 7-10 months after initial hospitalisation for their injury. The reaction time tests were graded in difficulty, from a simple RT response to a complex choice RT test. In addition, subjects were compared in their ability to ignore redundant information during one of the choice RT tests. The findings indicate that traumatic brain injury causes slower information processing, deficits in divided attention, an impairment of focused attention, and inconsistency of performance.