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Clin Neuropsychol. 2012;26(8):1255-77. doi: 10.1080/13854046.2012.735254.

Systematic variation of the severity of motor vehicle accident-related traumatic brain injury vignettes produces different post-concussion symptom reports.

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  • 1Clinical Neuropsychology Research Group, School of Psychology and Counselling, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.


This study investigated the specificity of the post-concussion syndrome (PCS) expectation-as-etiology hypothesis. Undergraduate students (n = 551) were randomly allocated to one of three vignette conditions. Vignettes depicted either a very mild (VMI), mild (MI), or moderate-to-severe (MSI) motor vehicle-related traumatic brain injury (TBI). Participants reported the PCS and PTSD symptoms that they imagined the depicted injury would produce. Secondary outcomes (knowledge of mild TBI, and the perceived undesirability of TBI) were also assessed. After data screening, the distribution of participants by condition was: VMI (n = 100), MI (n = 96), and MSI (n = 71). There was a significant effect of condition on PCS symptomatology, F(2, 264) = 16.55, p < .001. Significantly greater PCS symptomatology was expected in the MSI condition compared to the other conditions (MSI > VMI; medium effect, r = .33; MSI > MI; small-to-medium effect, r = .22). The same pattern of group differences was found for PTSD symptoms, F(2, 264) = 17.12, p < .001. Knowledge of mild TBI was not related to differences in expected PCS symptoms by condition; and the perceived undesirability of TBI was only associated with reported PCS symptomatology in the MSI condition. Systematic variation in the severity of a depicted TBI produces different PCS and PTSD symptom expectations. Even a very mild TBI vignette can elicit expectations of PCS symptoms.

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