National study provides insights into childhood head injuries

This week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine features an article that highlights an unprecedented analysis of the nation’s childhood head injuries. The study, authored by physicians at UC Davis School of Medicine and Washington University School of Medicine, analyzed more than 43,000 children who were evaluated for head trauma at 25 emergency departments around the United States.

Stroke-Fighting Drug Offers Potential Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment

The only drug currently approved for treatment of stroke’s crippling effects shows promise, when administered as a nasal spray, to help heal similar damage in less severe forms of traumatic brain injury.

In the first examination of its kind, researchers Ye Xiong, Ph.D, Zhongwu Liu, Ph.D., and Michael Chopp, Ph.D., Scientific Director of the Henry Ford Neuroscience Institute, found in animal studies that the brain’s limited ability to repair itself after trauma can be enhanced when treated with the drug tPA, or tissue plasminogen activator.

Probing Brain’s Depth, Trying to Aid Memory

The Department of Defense on Tuesday announced a $40 million investment in what has become the fastest-moving branch of neuroscience: direct brain recording. Two centers, one at the University of Pennsylvania and the other at the University of California, Los Angeles, won contracts to develop brain implants for memory deficits. Their aim is to develop new treatments for traumatic brain injury, the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Its most devastating symptom is the blunting of memory and reasoning. Scientists have found in preliminary studies that they can sharpen some kinds of memory by directly recording, and stimulating, circuits deep in the brain. Unlike brain imaging, direct brain recording allows scientists to conduct experiments while listening to the brain’s internal dialogue in real time, using epilepsy patients like Ralph or people with Parkinson’s disease as active collaborators.

Among Patients with TBI, Maintaining Higher Hemoglobin Concentration or Receiving Hormone EPO Does Not Improve Neurological Outcomes

In patients with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), neither the administration of the hormone erythropoietin (EPO) or maintaining a higher hemoglobin concentration through blood transfusion resulted in improved neurological outcome at 6 months. Transfusing at higher hemoglobin concentrations was associated with a higher risk of adverse events. Patients with severe traumatic brain injury commonly develop anemia. For patients with neurological injury, anemia is a potential cause of secondary injury, which may worsen neurological outcomes. Treatment of anemia may include transfusions of packed red blood cells or administration of erythropoietin. There is limited information about the effect of erythropoietin or a high hemoglobin transfusion threshold (if the hemoglobin concentration drops below a certain level, a transfusion is performed) after a TBI, according to background information in the article.

DARPA-Funded Research Offers Faster, Better Views of Entire Brain

A new research protocol developed at Stanford University in California improves on their previous technological breakthrough and lets neuroscientists visualize a brain across multiple scales, says program manager Dr. Justin Sanchez. Stanford scientists earlier developed a method called Clear, Lipid-exchanged, Acrylamide-hybridized Rigid, Imaging/immunostaining compatible, Tissue hydrogel (CLARITY) to study brain tissue. The method uses a chemical to transform intact biological tissues into a hydrogel hybrid, which makes the brain tissues transparent. “Brains are not clear to begin with, therefore if you’re trying to use, let’s say, a microscope to study the volume of tissue of the brain, the light can’t transverse through all of the structure,” Sanchez explains. “However, if you do ‘clarify’ it using this very novel technique, then you are able to get through a volume of tissue and study all of the circuitry.” Under the CLARITY protocol, Sanchez says, it could take upwards of 80 years to conduct the imaging process for a complete human brain. But the new protocol accelerates the process so that the same technique now takes 220 days.

Study finds cognitive performance can be improved in teens months, years after traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injuries from sports, recreational activities, falls or car accidents are the leading cause of death and disability in children and adolescents. While previously it was believed that the window for brain recovery was at most one year after injury, new research from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas shows cognitive performance can be improved to significant degrees months, and even years, after injury, given targeted brain training. "The after-effects of concussions and more severe brain injuries can be very different and more detrimental to a developing child or adolescent brain than an adult brain," said Dr. Lori Cook, study author and director of the Center for BrainHealth's pediatric brain injury programs. "While the brain undergoes spontaneous recovery in the immediate days, weeks, and months following a brain injury, cognitive deficits may continue to evolve months to years after the initial brain insult when the brain is called upon to perform higher-order reasoning and critical thinking tasks."

Risk of brain injury is genetic

University researchers have identified a link between injury to the developing brain and common variation in genes associated with schizophrenia and the metabolism of fat. The study builds on previous research, which has shown that being born prematurely - before 37 weeks - is a leading cause of learning and behavioural difficulties in childhood.

Head injuries can make children loners

This is a preliminary study but we want to go into more of the details about why working memory and processing speed are associated with social functioning and how specific brain structures might be related to improve outcome.

A new cell type is implicated in epilepsy caused by traumatic brain injury

A new study in mice identifies increased levels of a specific neurotransmitter as a contributing factor connecting traumatic brain injury (TBI) to post-traumatic epilepsy. The findings suggest that damage to brain cells called interneurons disrupts neurotransmitter levels and plays a role in the development of epilepsy after a traumatic brain injury.