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Purpose: Military service members often report both affective and vestibular complaints after mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), but associations between symptoms and vestibular deficits can be subtle and inconsistent.
Methods: From two complementary studies, one of military service members with persistent post-concussive symptoms after mTBI (NCT01611194) and the other of adult volunteers with no history of brain injury (NCT01925963), affective symptoms were compared to postural control, gait, otolith and visuospatial function.
Results: The studies enrolled 71 participants with mTBI and 75 normative controls. Participants with mTBI had significantly reduced postural equilibrium on the sensory organization test (SOT), and more so in those with high anxiety or post-traumatic stress. Cervical and ocular vestibular evoked myogenic potentials (cVEMP; oVEMP) showed prolonged latencies in mTBI participants compared to controls; oVEMPs were significantly delayed in mTBI participants with high anxiety, post-traumatic stress or depression. A subset of the mTBI group had abnormal tandem gait and high anxiety. Anxiety, posttraumatic stress, and depression did not correlate with performance on the 6-Minute Walk Test, visuospatial neuropsychological measures, and the Satisfaction with Life Scale in the mTBI group.
Conclusions: In this study military service members with mTBI reported affective symptoms, concurrently with vestibular-balance concerns. Worse scores on affective measures were associated with abnormal findings on measures of postural control, gait and otolith function.