Dissociation between delayed alternation and memory after pediatric head injury: Relationship to MRI findings

H. S. Levin, K. A. Culhane, J. M. Fletcher, D. B. Mendelsohn, M. A. Lilly, H. Harward, S. B. Chapman, D. A. Bruce, L. Bertolino-Kusnerik, H. M. Eisenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


This study investigated the usefulness of a delayed alternation task in characterizing the cognitive sequelae of closed head injury in children and adolescents. Verbal learning and memory (California Verbal Learning Test) were also studied for comparison. Sixty-two closed head injury patients (mean age, 9.6 years), who were studied after an average postinjury interval of 20 months, were divided according to both their lowest postresuscitation Glasgow Coma Scale score (3 to 8 versus 9 to 15) and age range (5 to 7 years versus 8 to 16 years) at the time of testing. Magnetic resonance imaging was performed to evaluate the relationship of focal brain lesions to cognitive and memory performance. Fifty-six neurologically normal children (mean age, 9.9 years) were tested on the same measures. The results disclosed no relationship between delayed alternation performance and severity of injury. In contrast, verbal memory was impaired in the severely-injured patients, relative to both controls and less severely-injured patients. Frontal lobe (but not extrafrontal) lesion size incremented the Glasgow Coma Scale score in predicting verbal memory, but there was no relationship between focal brain lesions and delayed alternation performance. In contrast to the tendency for more efficient delayed alternation performance in the 5- to 7-year-old subjects than in the 8- to 16-year-old subjects, verbal memory significantly improved with age in the closed head injury and control groups. Notwithstanding our essentially negative findings for delayed alternation, it is possible that this task may be useful for assessing frontal lobe injury in younger children or infants. Our results indicate limitations in extrapolating from nonhuman primate studies of delayed alternation to frontal lobe function in children and adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-89
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of child neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology


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