Individuals who sustain a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) can suffer from executive function, working memory, and attention deficits, which can impact functional task performance, including reading comprehension. Individuals with mTBI commonly report reading difficulties, but such difficulties have been historically difficult to capture using behavioral measures. The current study examined reading performance in those with and without mTBI using eye-tracking measures, which may be more sensitive to reading impairment in mTBI.
In Experiment 1, 26 participants with a history of mTBI and 26 healthy control participants completed working memory (WM) and reading comprehension tasks. We found no differences in behavioral measures but found that spontaneous eye-blinking frequency was lower during the reading task in the mTBI group. In Experiment 2, we explored the impact of auditory distraction (e.g., multi-talker babble) on reading and memory performance. Twenty-three new participants with a history of mTBI and 26 healthy control participants completed a short-term memory (STM) task, a WM task, and a reading comprehension task under two distraction conditions. As in Experiment 1, we found no differences on behavioral measures, but observed significant differences on spontaneous eye-blinking frequency between those with and without mTBI. Group differences in distraction effects were also observed and performance on the WM task predicted reading comprehension performance.
The lack of differences on behavioral measures between groups, but lower frequencies of spontaneous eye blinking in the mTBI group suggests that while these individuals successfully completed the reading comprehension task, they may require more cognitive resources to do so.

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