As many as 20 percent of our returning soldiers are diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, and about 40 percent of those are mild cases that are often overlooked because they don’t show up on traditional screening. Thanks to a $1.4 million Defense Department Grant researchers at the Cleveland Clinic and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston “are trying to figure out why so many veterans are suffering from the lingering effects of this injury many months later. The researchers are using brain imaging to try to create a more accurate picture of mild TBI.”
Clinic-Baylor have recently began recruiting 120 subjects and will compare brain injured veterans and civilians using brain images, using the “better studied and understood TBI caused by mechanical forces – such as the sudden jolt of a car accident”.
“Neuroscientists Stephen Rao at the Clinic and Harvey Levin at Baylor know from animal studies that blast causes microscopic changes in the brain. They just don’t know exactly what they’ll see in human brains or what’s causing this kind of damage, which they think will look different from a blunt-force type of TBI.”
Rao and Levin are planning to use two specialized methods of brain imaging to identify where the damage occurred:
One method measures the flow of blood in different areas of the brain in response to activities and tasks – such as remembering a telephone number. These kinds of scans have shown that brain-injured patients have to work harder to perform tasks than do uninjured patients. Rao is not sure if they will see the same patterns in the blast-injured patients.
The other scanning method shows movement of water in the brain at the molecular level, particularly in the part of the brain that contains nerve fibers. For mechanical brain injuries, it frequently shows a lot of damage to nerve fibers when the brain is violently accelerated and nerves shear.