Single concussion may cause lasting brain damage

March 12, 2013

A single concussion may cause lasting structural damage to the brain, according to a new study published online in the journal Radiology.

"This is the first study that shows undergo measureable volume loss after concussion," said Yvonne W. Lui, M.D., Neuroradiology section chief and assistant professor of radiology at NYU Langone School of Medicine. "In some patients, there are structural changes to the brain after a single concussive episode."

According to the , each year in the U.S., 1.7 million people sustain traumatic brain injuries, resulting from sudden trauma to the brain. Mild (MTBI), or concussion, accounts for at least 75 percent of all traumatic brain injuries.

Following a concussion, some patients experience a brief . Other symptoms include headache, dizziness, memory loss, attention deficit, depression and anxiety. Some of these conditions may persist for months or even years.

Studies show that 10 to 20 percent of MTBI patients continue to experience neurological and more than one year following trauma. has long been known to occur after moderate and severe head trauma, but less is known about the lasting effects of a single concussion.

Dr. Lui and colleagues set out to investigate changes in global and regional in patients one year after MTBI. Twenty-eight MTBI patients (with 19 followed at one year) with post-traumatic symptoms after injury and 22 matched controls (with 12 followed at one year) were enrolled in the study. The researchers used three-dimensional (MRI) to determine regional gray matter and white matter volumes and correlated these findings with other clinical and cognitive measurements.

The researchers found that at one year after concussion, there was measurable global and regional brain atrophy in the MTBI patients. These findings show that brain atrophy is not exclusive to more severe brain injuries but can occur after a single concussion.

"This study confirms what we have long suspected," Dr. Lui said. "After MTBI, there is true structural injury to the brain, even though we don't see much on routine clinical imaging. This means that patients who are symptomatic in the long-term after a concussion may have a biologic underpinning of their symptoms."

Certain brain regions showed a significant decrease in regional volume in patients with MTBI over the first year after injury, compared to controls. These volume changes correlated with cognitive changes in memory, attention and anxiety.

"Two of the brain regions affected were the anterior cingulate and the precuneal region," Dr. Lui said. "The anterior cingulate has been implicated in mood disorders including depression, and the precuneal region has a lot of different connections to areas of the responsible for executive function or higher order thinking."

According to Dr. Lui, researchers are still investigating the long-term effects of concussion, and she advises caution in generalizing the results of this study to any particular individual.

"It is important for patients who have had a concussion to be evaluated by a physician," she said. "If patients continue to have symptoms after concussion, they should follow-up with their physician before engaging in high-risk activities such as contact sports."

More information: "Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Longitudinal Regional Brain Volume Changes." Collaborating with Dr. Lui were Yongxia Zhou, Ph.D., Andrea Kierans, M.D., Damon Kenul, B.S., Yulin Ge, M.D., Joseph Rath, B.S., Joseph Reaume, B.S., and Robert I. Grossman, M.D.

Related Stories

Concussions can happen in all kids, not just athletes

September 6, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—The gridiron is back in action. From little leagues to professional teams, football frenzy has begun, and with it, concerns about concussions. But it's not just jarring tackles that can lead to concussions ...

Imaging shows some brains compensate after traumatic injury

November 26, 2012

Using a special magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique to image patients with mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), researchers have identified a biomarker that may predict which patients will do well over the long term, ...

Recommended for you

Experimental MERS vaccine shows promise in animal studies

July 28, 2015

A two-step regimen of experimental vaccines against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) prompted immune responses in mice and rhesus macaques, report National Institutes of Health scientists who designed the vaccines. ...

Can social isolation fuel epidemics?

July 21, 2015

Conventional wisdom has it that the more people stay within their own social groups and avoid others, the less likely it is small disease outbreaks turn into full-blown epidemics. But the conventional wisdom is wrong, according ...

Lack of knowledge on animal disease leaves humans at risk

July 20, 2015

Researchers from the University of Sydney have painted the most detailed picture to date of major infectious diseases shared between wildlife and livestock, and found a huge gap in knowledge about diseases which could spread ...

IBD genetically similar in Europeans and non-Europeans

July 20, 2015

The first genetic study of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to include individuals from diverse populations has shown that the regions of the genome underlying the disease are consistent around the world. This study, conducted ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.