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Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling :: USF's College of Behavioral & Community Sciences

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University of South Florida · College of Behavioral & Community Sciences · Department of Child & Family Studies · Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling

Long-Term Effects of TBI Affect Spatial Orientation and Movement 10 Years or Longer Post Injury

Traumatic brain injury has persistent symptomatic effects which influence an individual's walking ability and spatial orientation years after the event. The ability to orient oneself when walking (ambulation) is revealed in an individual¹s path tortuosity, a measure of directional changes an individual makes on the way to his or her destination.

A recent study by Dr. William Kearns and colleagues from the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences and the James A. Haley Veterans' Administration Hospital investigated the long-term effects of TBI on everyday outdoor ambulation in community-dwelling veterans an average of 10 or more years after their injury.  Using fractal mathematics and GPS tracking technology, they found that veterans who reported they had suffered a TBI also had significantly higher Fractal Dimension (Fractal D) scores than controls.

Their findings indicate that not only does TBI sequelae affect everyday walking, the effects of a TBI can continue long after treatment in hospital or residential rehabilitation programs typically ends.  Dr. Kearns believes that this may be the first report of group differences in path tortuosity in outdoor voluntary ambulation of humans. Fractal D has been used extensively in naturalistic studies of other species, and is derived from the Movement Ecology Paradigm of Professor Vilis Nams of Dalhousie University in Canada.

For more about Dr. Kearns¹ work, see his departmental website or contact him at kearns@usf.edu. 

Kearns, W. D., Fozard, J. L., Schonfeld, L., Scott, S., & Marshall, K. (2015). Elevated movement path tortuosity in voluntary outdoor ambulation in community-dwelling veterans with a history of traumatic brain injury. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 30(1), E8-E14.  doi:10.1097/htr.0000000000000021. Journal website