Brain abnormalities found among those experiencing blast-related mild traumatic brain injury

April 22, 2015
Left hemisphere of J. Piłsudski's brain, lateral view. Credit: public domain

Individuals with mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI), particularly those who have had loss of consciousness (LOC), show structural brain abnormalities in their white matter as measured by Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI).

These findings, which appear in the journal NeuroImage: Clinical, is the only study to date to demonstrate that mTBI with LOC is associated with brain abnormalities that lead to decreased performance in verbal memory.

Blast-related TBI has been a common injury among returning troops due to the widespread use of improvised explosive devices in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As most of the TBIs sustained are in the mild range, brain changes may not be detected by standard clinical imaging techniques such as CT. Furthermore, the functional significance of these types of injuries is currently being debated. However, accumulating evidence suggests that DTI is sensitive to subtle white matter abnormalities and may be especially useful in detecting mTBI.

In this study the researchers recruited three groups: a control group with no TBI; a TBI group without LOC and a TBI group with LOC. The study subjects underwent TBI, PTSD and neuropsychological assessments, including tests for executive function and memory along with MRI and DTI imaging. The researchers found that individuals even with mild forms of TBI, particularly when they've experienced LOC, showed unhealthy brain abnormalities, which in turn could be related to poor memory.

"Our hope is that this study will make clear that mTBI, to a greater extent than PTSD, is associated with abnormalities and thus cognitive changes and other negative outcomes cannot be entirely attributed to mental health disorders," explained corresponding author Jasmeet Pannu Hayes, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and a research psychologist at the National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Healthcare System. "We also hope that our study will highlight the usefulness of in detecting blast-related mTBI, particularly as TBI from this injury mechanism has become more common in recent years with the increased use of improvised ," she added.

Since the relationship between the observed and adverse long-term outcomes such as neurodegenerative disease (e.g. chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Alzheimer's disease) is not clear, the researchers believe it would be important to assess and monitor individuals with mTBI with LOC to help support their cognitive functioning and keep abreast of greater-than-expected cognitive decline.

Explore further: Prior brain injury linked to re-injury later in life

Related Stories

Prior brain injury linked to re-injury later in life

January 3, 2013

(HealthDay)—Older adults with a history of traumatic brain injury (TBI) with loss of consciousness (LOC) have a 2.5- to almost four-fold higher risk of subsequent re-injury later in life, according to research published ...

Recommended for you

Study identifies how brain connects memories across time

May 23, 2016

Using a miniature microscope that opens a window into the brain, UCLA neuroscientists have identified in mice how the brain links different memories over time. While aging weakens these connections, the team devised a way ...

Neuroscientists illuminate role of autism-linked gene

May 25, 2016

A new study from MIT neuroscientists reveals that a gene mutation associated with autism plays a critical role in the formation and maturation of synapses—the connections that allow neurons to communicate with each other.

The brain needs cleaning to stay healthy

May 26, 2016

Research led by the Achucarro Basque Center for Neuroscience, the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), and the Ikerbasque Foundation has revealed the mechanisms that keep the brain clean during neurodegenerative diseases.

Teen brains facilitate recovery from traumatic memories

May 25, 2016

Unique connections in the adolescent brain make it possible to easily diminish fear memories and avoid anxiety later in life, according to a new study by Weill Cornell Medicine researchers. The findings may have important ...

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.