Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries May Be Identified By Changes in Brain Connectivity


A large collaboration between a number of universities around the world suggests mild traumatic brain injuries may be diagnosed using scans that detect changes in brain connectivity.

For the study, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, the University of Texas, Austin, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Virginia Commonwealth University, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Antwerp University Hospital in Belgium worked together to show that patient with mild traumatic brain injury or concussions may show changes in brain connectivity that can be detected at the time of their injury.

The results, published in the Journal of Neurotrauma, indicate that those with mild traumatic brain injury exhibit differences in brain connectivity compared to healthy patients. The researchers also saw unique patterns of connectivity in more severe cases of mTBI – such as those where patients also showed lesions in the brain.

“While, as the authors acknowledge, they are not the first group to explore the utility of resting state functional MRI in probing the morbidity associated with mild traumatic brain injury, they do elegantly capitalize on the TRACK-TBI study population to critically evaluate functional connectivity in a patient population that is well characterized and followed by traditional imaging approaches,” John T. Povlishock, Ph.D., professor in the Medical College of Virginia Commonwealth University and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Neurotrauma, said in a press release.

“Their finding of altered patterns of functional connectivity even in that mild TBI patient population, revealing no CT/MRI abnormalities, is an extremely important observation, as is the fact that these changes in functional connectivity portend the development of a persistent post-concussive syndrome.”

The findings could potentially pave a path towards better identification and evaluation of brain injuries. The researchers say they believe doctors may one day be able to diagnose and predict the long-term effects of mTBI in individuals by evaluating changes in brain connectivity.

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