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Posted by Annapaola Prestia Laboratory of Epidemiology Neuroimaging and Telemedicine, IRCCS Centro San Giovanni di Dio FBF, The National Centre for Research and Care of Alzheimer’s and Mental Diseases, Brescia, Italy. July 2012

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a stressful event that often evokes many stress-associated psychiatric disorders, and there is a substantial literature demonstrating that a major stress hormone, glucorticoids (cortisol in humans), modulates learning and memory processes. Research is inconclusive on whether gender differences exist in cognitive function in persons who sustain a mild-to-moderate TBI. Furthermore, it is also unclear whether there is a relationship between chronic stress and cognitive function in these persons. Participants (36 men and 36 women) were recruited from eight outpatient rehabilitation centers. Participants completed the demographic questions, the Immediate Postconcussion Assessment Cognitive Testing neurocognitive test battery, the Perceived Stress Scale-14, and the Neurobehavioral Functioning Inventory (NFI). The results revealed that men with mild-to-moderate TBI exhibited worse verbal memory composite scores compared with women with mild-to-moderate TBI, whereas the remaining cognitive tasks, neurobehavioral symptoms, and chronic stress did not indicate gender differences. However, as chronic stress levels increased, female patients exhibited worse verbal memory, motor processing speed, and reaction time. In addition, significant relationships were also evident between NFI subscales and cognitive function for both men and women. In conclusion, more research is needed to explore the relationship between stress, neurobehavioral symptoms, and cognitive function between male and female patients with TBI. Future research should also concentrate on longitudinal chronic stress and neuroendocrine as well as imaging studies.