Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name



Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Christopher Abeare




Sport-related concussion is a serious and frequently occurring health condition that impacts the lives of athletes. It is important to correctly diagnose concussions in athletes to avoid potential further injury. However, concussions are difficult to diagnose because there are currently no medical tests to identify them. Neuroimaging may be a useful technique in diagnosing concussion and understanding the neuropathological mechanisms of concussion sequalae. The default mode network is a neural network associated with processes such as episodic memory and self-reflection. It is active when a person is at rest and is not focused on completing a task, Research suggests that sport-related concussion can negatively impact the activity of this neural network. This study analyzed default mode network activity in male and female varsity athletes with a sport related concussion (Mean age = 21.33, SD = 0.577; 2/3 female) and healthy male and female control individuals without a sport-related concussion (Mean age = 21, SD = 2.64; 9/15 female) as well as healthy control varsity athletes without a sport-related concussion (Mean age = 22, SD = 0; 2/2 female). All individuals completed a stop-signal task that acted as an active trial and a rest trial where their default mode network activity was recorded with fNIRS. Concussed female athletes showed lower levels of default mode network activity than control females during rest tasks. Concussed female athletes also showed lower levels of default mode network activity compared to control females and control female athletes during active tasks. This suggests that concussed females showed abnormal activity in default mode network associated regions compared to healthy controls especially when switching between active and rest trials. Increased activity in default mode network regions was observed between control athletes and control non-athletes during rest tasks, suggesting that an active lifestyle may affect default mode network activity in healthy individuals. Overall, the results of this pilot study suggest that fNIRS is useful for identifying concussion and that it may help to explain observed sex and gender differences in sport-related concussion.