It is well established at this point that repeated traumatic brain injuries can have permanent effects on the brains of patients, but a new study suggests just a single concussion may cause changes in the structure of a brain that cause cognitive problems and increase the risk of depression.
The study used magnetic resonance imaging to compare healthy brain with mild TBI patients’ brains a year after their injury. The researchers found shrinkage in brain regions associated with memory, executive function, and mood regulation.
The study was published online in the journal Radiology today, and it is the first study to show that a single isolated concussion can leave significant scars on the brain.
The shrinkage found in the brain was classified as “global”, or affecting the brain’s overall volume, but it was particularly present in areas crucial to memory, attention, judgement, and reasoning, as well as depression and anxiety.
“This study confirms what we have long suspected,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Yvonne W. Lui, neuroradiology chief at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. After a mild traumatic brain injury, “there is true structural injury to the brain, even though we don’t see much on routine clinical imaging,” she told the Los Angeles Times.
Another day, another study emerges increasing our understanding of just how risky even a supposedly “mild” traumatic brain injury is.