Even mild head injuries can cause significant abnormalities in brain function that last for several days, according to new research.
Scientists at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine say this may explain the neurological symptoms experienced by those who have experienced a head injury associated with sports, accidents or combat.
Previous research has shown that even a mild case of traumatic brain injury (TBI) can result in long-lasting neurological issues, such as slowing of cognitive processes, confusion, chronic headaches, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.
Led by Kimberle M. Jacobs, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, the research team said they used sophisticated bioimaging and electrophysiological approaches to demonstrate that mild injury can cause structural disruption of axons in the brain while also changing the way the neurons fire in areas where they have not been structurally altered.
Axons are nerve fibers in the brain responsible for conducting electrical impulses. The researchers used models of mild traumatic brain injury and followed neurons in live cortical slices.
“These findings should help move the field forward by providing a unique bioimaging and electrophysiological approach to assess the evolving changes evoked by mild TBI and their potential therapeutic modulation,” said co-investigator John T. Povlishock, Ph.D., professor and chair of the VCU School of Medicine’s Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology.
The study was published in the May issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.