Criminology, Psychology Come Together for Brain Research

Researchers at SHSU are exploring the association between mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and increases in negative behavioral and mental health outcomes. Assistant Professor Eric Connolly from the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology collaborated with Clinical Psychology graduate student Brandon McCormick to study the relationship between mTBI and increased risk for psychopathology in adolescent youths.

“We want to know whether suffering from a mild traumatic brain injury during adolescence can be associated with an increase in problem behaviors,” Connolly said.

McCormick reached out to Connolly after discovering another research article he authored. Hoping to collaborate due to their similar research interests in brain injury and its effects, McCormick supplied a data sample as a potential research project.

The data comes from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods and is derived from a sample of at-risk youth. The unique contribution of their study was controlling prior problem behaviors before youth suffered an mTBI, and using over 1,000 cases to look at whether mTBI was a unique risk factor for increases in different forms of psychopathology.

“There are studies that show that a head injury is associated with a range of behavioral problems, but very few have been able to account for prior symptoms of these problem behaviors to control for selection.” - Eric Connolly 

The results from their study revealed that adolescents with a mTBI reported higher levels of aggressive behavior, anxiety, depression and delinquent behavior, even when controlling for levels of these behaviors prior to the mTBI. Connolly and McCormick suggest that mTBI may be an important, and until recently, overlooked environmental risk factor for psychopathology during adolescence.

“I hope our findings highlight the need for criminologists and public health professionals alike to create more effective intervention and prevention programs for victims of head injury,” Connolly said. “Our study, along with others, are beginning to show that there are both short-term and long-term consequences associated with mTBI.”

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