A new brain imaging technique has uncovered why concussions affect people differently.
Researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Centre, US, used a new technique for analyzing data from brain imaging studies, finding that concussion victims have unique spatial patterns of brain abnormalities that change over time.
This new research could eventually be used to better assist concussion patients by predicting which head injuries are most likely to have long-lasting neurological consequences and weighing up the best treatments for them, according to lead author Michael L. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D.
Most people who suffer from concussions are able to make full recoveries without suffering any long lasting effects, however, as many as 30 per cent can suffer permanent impairment, such as personality change or neurological disorders.
Previous studies have managed to identify differences between the brains of people who have suffered from a concussion and normal people, although they have not yet been able to assess whether concussion victims differ from one another. Indeed, most researchers assumed that abnormalities resulting from a concussion occur in the same place, Dr Lipton explained.
He said: “That doesn’t make sense, since it is more likely that different areas would be affected in each person because of differences in anatomy, vulnerability to injury and mechanism of injury.”
The researchers deployed a new technique in the study, using the recently developed MRI technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) on 34 consecutive patients. Once the data was obtained, it was analysed using a new software tool called Enhanced Z-score Microstructural Assessment Pathology (EZ-MAP), which can be used to examine microstructural abnormalities across the entire brain of individual patients.
They observed areas of abnormality, finding that each concussion patient had a unique spatial pattern of low fractional anisotropy (FA) that evolved over the study period. Additionally, each patient also had a unique, evolving pattern of abnormally high FA distinct from the areas of low FA.