Traumatic Brain Injury Study Reveals Global Neuronal Connectivity Changes and Implications for Rehabilitation

Widespread Changes Observed after Brain Injury

A head injury leads to widespread changes in neuronal connections, according to research from Tufts University, which used a new imaging technology. The imaging, which records neuronal activity throughout the brain during the first weeks of recovery, also shows, in the study which was published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, that the two hemispheres of the brain work together to create new neuronal pathways to replace those that have been destroyed.

Read Also: Autophagy a Potential Therapeutic Option for Injury-Related Neuroinflammation and Neuronal Cell Death

Neurons

Neurons

Therefore, a head injury severe enough to affect brain function, such as that caused by a car accident or a fall, can lead to changes in the brain far beyond the site of the collision: “and even in areas distant from the injury. While studies on head injuries usually focus on the site of the injury or collision, this study clearly shows that the whole brain can be affected and that imaging remote areas can also provide valuable information,” explains one of the lead authors, Tuft researcher Samantha Bottom-Tanzer.

Innovative Imaging Technique and Key Findings

The study uses an imaging technique that combines fluorescent neuronal activity sensors and electrodes to record how different regions of the brain communicate with each other after a brain injury. The team was able to track neuronal activity in the mice model for up to 3 weeks after the injury, during periods of exercise and rest. These observations revealed the following:

  • Global neuron-to-neuron connectivity decreases after brain injury.
  • The activity of injured brains during periods of activity and rest differs significantly from that of healthy brains.
  • After head trauma, the changes in the brain normally observed between the periods of activity and rest are less evident, suggesting that trauma alters the brain’s adaptive capacity.  This point however still needs to be clarified, the authors note.

Read Also: UC San Diego: Adult Brain Cells Revert to Younger State Following Injury, Study Shows

Implications for Treatment and Future Research

The researchers explain that imaging and observing the brains of injured patients while they perform various activities can make it easier to determine which functions are affected, which can also make it possible to improve and adapt treatment.

“Most patients and also doctors think that the brain is in a fixed state, but our data indicates that there are fluctuations and that these changes offer opportunities to explore different interventions.”

The research continues, with the aim of following changes in neuronal activity over an even longer period after recovery and making the best use of imaging technology to identify specific types of dysfunction, for better-targeted interventions.

Read Also: Targeted Brain Stimulation May Repair Damaged Neural Connections Study Shows

Final Thoughts

Although this study helps us understand the changes in neuronal connections after brain injury more research is still needed and should focus on directly linking these changes to specific cognitive impairments to enhance treatment strategies. Additionally, the potential of this imaging technology to help develop personalized rehabilitation approaches will improve patient outcomes in traumatic brain injury cases.

References

Samantha Bottom-Tanzer, Sofia Corella, Jochen Meyer, Mary Sommer, Luis Bolaños, Timothy Murphy, Sadi Quiñones, Shane Heiney, Matthew Shtrahman, Michael Whalen, Rachel Oren, Michael J Higley, Jessica A Cardin, Farzad Noubary, Moritz Armbruster, Chris Dulla, Traumatic brain injury disrupts state-dependent functional cortical connectivity in a mouse model, Cerebral Cortex, Volume 34, Issue 2, February 2024, bhae038, https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhae038

Caputo, J. (2024, February 15). Study: Traumatic Brain Injury Leads to Widespread Changes in Neural Connections. Tufts University School of Medicine. Retrieved from https://medicine.tufts.edu/news-events/news/study-traumatic-brain-injury-leads-widespread-changes-neural-connections

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