Brain connectivity disrupted in patients with post-concussive syndrome

July 26, 2011

A new study has found that patients with mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) exhibit abnormal functional connectivity in the thalamus, a centrally located relay station for transmitting information throughout the brain. The results of the study appear online in the journal Radiology.

"Using resting-state functional MRI, we found increased of thalamocortical networks in patients following MTBI, due to the subtle injury of the thalamus," said study co-author Yulin Ge, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Radiology at NYU Langone Medical Center. "These findings hold promise for better elucidating the underlying cause of a variety of post-traumatic symptoms that are difficult to spot and characterize using conventional imaging methods."

According to the , each year in the U.S. 1.5 million people sustain traumatic brain injuries, resulting from sudden trauma to the brain. 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, , attention deficit, depression and anxiety. Some of these conditions may persist for months or even years. Typically in patients with MTBI, there are no structural abnormalities visible on the brain, so researchers have begun using specialized imaging exams to detect abnormalities in how the brain functions.

Comparing levels of activity among different groups of helps identify which brain networks are communicating with one another. Some brain networks, known as resting state networks (RSNs) and baseline can be detected when the brain is at rest. These networks include the parts of the brain associated with .

"The RSNs have great potential for studying thalamic dysfunction in several clinical disorders including ," Dr. Ge said.

Resting-state functional MRI (RS-fMRI) has rapidly emerged as a novel informative tool for investigating brain connectivity between regions that are functionally linked. RS-fMRI provides insight into functional activity and communication between brain regions, which play key roles in cognitive performance.

"The disruption of such functional properties is better characterized by RS-fMRI than by conventional diagnostic tools," Dr. Ge said.

Dr. Ge and colleagues used RS-fMRI to study the brain activity of 24 patients with MTBI and 17 healthy control patients. A normal pattern of thalamic RSNs with relatively symmetric and restrictive connectivity was demonstrated in the healthy control group. In the patients with MTBI, this pattern was disrupted, with significantly increased thalamic RSNs and decreased symmetry. These findings correlated with clinical symptoms and diminished neurocognitive functions in the patients with MTBI.

"The thalamic functional networks have multiple functions, including sensory information process and relay, consciousness, cognition, and sleep and wakefulness regulation," Dr. Ge said. "The disruption of thalamic RSNs may result in a burning or aching sensation, accompanied by mood swings and sleep disorders, and can contribute to certain psychotic, affective, obsessive-compulsive, anxiety and impulse control disorders. These symptoms are commonly seen in MTBI patients with post-concussive syndrome."

Because the causes of post-concussive syndrome are poorly understood, there is currently no treatment. But, according to Dr. Ge, the results of this study have implications for a new therapeutic strategy, based on sound understanding of the underlying mechanisms of thalamocortical disruption and post-concussive syndrome.

More information: "Thalamic Resting-State Functional Networks: Disruption in Patients with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury." Collaborating with Dr. Ge on this paper were Lin Tang, Ph.D., Daniel K. Sodickson, M.D., Ph.D., Laura Miles, Ph.D., Yongxia Zhou, Ph.D., Joseph Reaume, B.S.R.T., and Robert I. Grossman, M.D.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

'Residual echo' of ancient humans in scans may hold clues to mental disorders

July 26, 2017
Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have produced the first direct evidence that parts of our brains implicated in mental disorders may be shaped by a "residual echo" from our ancient past. The more ...

Laser used to reawaken lost memories in mice with Alzheimer's disease

July 26, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers at Columbia University has found that applying a laser to the part of a mouse brain used for memory storage caused the mice to recall memories lost due to a mouse version of Alzheimer's ...

Cellular roots of anxiety identified

July 26, 2017
From students stressing over exams to workers facing possible layoffs, worrying about the future is a normal and universal experience. But when people's anticipation of bad things to come starts interfering with daily life, ...

Cognitive cross-training enhances learning, study finds

July 25, 2017
Just as athletes cross-train to improve physical skills, those wanting to enhance cognitive skills can benefit from multiple ways of exercising the brain, according to a comprehensive new study from University of Illinois ...

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Lutein may counter cognitive aging, study finds

July 25, 2017
Spinach and kale are favorites of those looking to stay physically fit, but they also could keep consumers cognitively fit, according to a new study from University of Illinois researchers.

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.