Mayo Clinic researchers develop test to gauge severity of concussions

March 19, 2013

Neurologists at Mayo Clinic in Arizona have taken a promising step toward identifying a test that helps support the diagnosis of concussion. Their research has shown that autonomic reflex testing, which measures involuntary changes in heart rate and blood pressure, consistently appear to demonstrate significant changes in those with concussion. They presented the findings at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in San Diego this week.

Right now doctors rely primarily on self-reporting of symptoms to make a diagnosis of . In addition, other than the absence of symptoms, there is no reliable test to determine when an athlete's brain has fully recovered from concussion. Doctors know from brain imaging research studies, that there is a lag between when the patient reports that their symptoms have resolved and the time when the brain has actually healed. Therefore, a rapid, reliable, cost-effective tool is needed to identify full brain recovery from concussion.

"This has the potential to change the way we approach concussion patients," says David Dodick, M.D., a and director of the Concussion Program. "One of the challenges of treating someone with a concussion is to reliably make a diagnosis: to know when the brain is injured and to know when the brain is actually recovered."

"Autonomic nervous system dysfunction has long been recognized as a possible complication of people with severe but has rarely been associated with people with concussions or milder forms of injury," adds co-author Brent Goodman, M.D., a Mayo neurologist and autonomic expert. The acts as an involuntary control system for functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, respiratory rate and perspiration.

In the study, Mayo Clinic doctors monitored 21 consecutive patients after concussion, and all experienced significant abnormalities in and blood pressure during autonomic testing. The physicians conclude that these abnormalities are tied to the concussion.

"Contrary to popular belief, the symptoms of 'dizziness' that patients feel just after a concussion may, in some cases, be symptoms of autonomic system impairment rather than a vestibular or inner ear disturbance," says Bert Vargas, M.D., a Mayo neurologist.

More research is needed, but the Mayo team is optimistic, Dr. Dodick says.

"This study shows a possible electrophysiological biomarker that indicates that a concussion has occurred—we are hopeful that with more research this will be confirmed and that this may also be a biomarker for recovery," he says.

Explore further: Researchers develop more reliable concussion tests

Related Stories

Researchers develop more reliable concussion tests

November 1, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—It could happen during a nasty spill on the ski slopes, a hard tackle at football practice, or even a car accident. ASU nursing student Sarah Hollowell sustained her concussion playing intramural softball, ...

Case study validates teleconcussion

November 19, 2012

A program at Mayo Clinic using telemedicine technology is showing promise for patients with concussions in rural Arizona. A case study published in the December 2012 issue of Telemedicine and e-Health validates "teleconcussion" ...

Recommended for you

Rat brain atlas provides MR images for stereotaxic surgery

October 21, 2016

Boris Odintsov, senior research scientist at the Biomedical Imaging Center at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and Thomas Brozoski, research professor ...

Imaging technique maps serotonin activity in living brains

October 20, 2016

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that's partly responsible for feelings of happiness and for mood regulation in humans. This makes it a common target for antidepressants, which block serotonin from being reabsorbed by neurons ...

Overcoming egocentricity increases self-control

October 19, 2016

Neurobiological models of self-control usually focus on brain mechanisms involved in impulse control and emotion regulation. Recent research at the University of Zurich shows that the mechanism for overcoming egocentricity ...

Exercise may help ward off memory decline

October 19, 2016

Exercise may be associated with a small benefit for elderly people who already have memory and thinking problems, according to new research published in the October 19, 2016, online issue of Neurology, a medical journal of ...


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.