New Study Suggests Long Term Effects of Mild Brain Injuries

The effects of serious traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are well known and significantly documented. However, recent research is shedding light on the lesser known lasting effects of mild and moderate traumatic brain injuries. According to a report by Fox News, researchers determined that cognition and brain matter are impacted by these injuries as well. The study involved 86 participants in total, 44 with mild TBI, nine with moderate TBI and a healthy control group of 33 participants. All of the subjects were similarly situated in education and age.

The study started immediately following the date of injury, with a Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) scan completed within one week. The test is a type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that contrasts the brightness of collected images to determine the health of the brain. When looking at the images, a healthy brain’s white area is ‘very structured and orderly,” according to the report. Where there is damage to the brain, the images show variances in brightness.

Researchers reported that patients with brain injuries showed damage to the white matter when compared to the healthy control group. This area of the brain reportedly acts as a bridge between the main areas, including memory and language functions. Andrew Blamire, a professor of magnetic resonance physics at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, is the study author. He is quoted as stating, “Damage to that interconnection could mean it affects a whole range of functions; it’s complicated to know precisely what they all do.”

In addition to the imaging, researchers also utilized the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) test, which measures general movement, verbal activity and eye movement. According to the report, the typical score of a fully responsive person is 15. The injured participants scored about 25% less than their healthy counterparts. Researchers noted an apparent connection between damage to white matter of the brain and lower cognitive scores.

The Long Term Findings

The study concluded with a 12-month follow up to test for improvements to cognitive functioning. The DTI scans showed repairs to some white matter of the brain, while other sections remained injured. In comparison, GCS testing showed cognitive improvement to most of the participants, but some of them still tested with lower cognitive numbers. Though DTI is not widely used in the diagnosis or treatment of brain injuries, researchers reportedly find it more useful than the computerized technology that is currently in use.

“[DTI] reveals the true level and extent of injury for the first time,” Blamire said. “It goes toward helping understand the relationship between the clinical status of a patient and what’s happening to the brain in a way that we haven’t been able to do before.”

Traumatic brain injuries are generally caused when the brain moves around inside of the skull, through bumps or sudden jagged movements of the head. They can lead to a lifetime of pain, suffering and financial hardships.

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