Ursinus Summer Fellow Charlie Lee 2014 is in the trenches of a national focus on the long-term impact of concussions on athletes. He is spending his summer exploring the changes that occur in the brain after an athlete suffers a concussion.
Lee, from Cerritos, Calif., is collecting and analyzing data from Ursinus athletes and students to research, The Effect of Concussions on Cognitive Ability within Athletes. He will examine how concussions, the result of blunt force or blow to the head, may cause changes in the chemical balance within the brain. This can affect the behavior and cognitive ability of affected individuals, says Lee. “The concept that a minor injury could snowball into permanent detrimental effects drew me in,” says Lee, who is
working with Joel Bish, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, Chair Neuroscience Coordinator.
“Charlie’s research looking at the appropriateness of the ImPACT test at assessing cognitive deficits following concussions relates to a test used nationwide at many high schools and colleges for assessing concussions,” says Bish. “He’s working to determine whether there are specific cognitive skills that are susceptible to damage following
concussions. Specifically, we are interested in whether impulse control,
or the ability to control ones actions, is one of the critical cognitive functions that may have a lasting deficit. Since control underlies virtually all behavior, deficits in impulse control are extremely damaging, although difficult to measure.”
Many healthcare professionals use ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing), a computerized neurocognitive assessment tool, to evaluate an athlete’s ability to return for play, he says. Current research seeks to compare ImPACT testing results and a composed battery of cognitive tests including the Stroop Test,
Erickson-Flanker, Splotch Memory, Go – no go, Number Stroop, and Shape-Color
Memory, Lee says. “During Fellows, I will be collecting more data by performing EEG (electroencephalogram, a test used to record electrical activity of the brain) on concussed students and unconcussed students. Using the data, I should be able to understand the differences in cognitive ability between concussed and unconcussed individuals. This study seeks to perform statistical analysis on the compiled data in order to compare the accuracy of ImPACT and the validity of the test in a long term scale.”