Intraindividual cognitive variability in sports-related concussion: Implications for motivation and neurological vulnerability

Open Access
Rabinowitz, Amanda
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 09, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Peter Andrew Arnett, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Richard Alan Carlson, Committee Member
  • Frank Gerard Hillary, Committee Member
  • Lisa Michelle Kopp, Committee Member
  • concussion
  • TBI
  • variability
  • motivation
  • effort
  • neuropsychological testing
The present thesis provides four publication-style empirical research papers that, taken as a whole, represent a study of intraindividual cross-domain cognitive variability in college athletes before and after sports-related head injury. Specifically, these papers examine the role of motivation and neurological vulnerability to injury as contributors to inconsistency in college athletes’ cognitive test performance. Paper 1 establishes an evidence-based criterion for dividing athletes into two groups following concussion—those experiencing neuropsychological impairment (impaired) and those who are not experiencing significant neuropsychological impairment (unimpaired). Paper 2 characterizes cross-domain intraindividual cognitive variability in college athletes before and after sports-related concussion. This paper examines the impact of concussion on cognitive variability, divides athletes into clusters based on cognitive variability before and after injury, and explores possible correlates of this variability. Paper 3 examines the influence of motivation on neuropsychological test performance. This study considers athletes’ motivation at baseline in relationship to baseline neuropsychological test performance, as well as the likelihood of being classified as impaired post-concussion. Paper 4 evaluates cross-domain cognitive variability as an indicator of vulnerability to injury at baseline, and as an indicator of neurological impairment post-concussion. This paper uses longitudinal structural equation modeling to test a multi-stage mediation model predicting post-concussion cognitive decline. The theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.