The researchers aim to improve the diagnosis and prognosis of traumatic brain injuries. They will combine two imaging techniques that they anticipate will enable clinicians to directly visualize both the brain’s functioning and its neuronal connections (“wiring”).
Even mild traumatic brain injuries can produce cognitive deficits and psychiatric disturbances. Currently used CT scans often fail to identify head injury, and MRI scans do not provide information consistently enough to assess a patient’s prognosis. The researchers hypothesize that long-term cognitive and behavioral effects are due to selective disruption of long-range neural pathways that connect the two cerebral hemispheres, producing functional impairment of the network of brain regions (white matter) that are interconnected by these pathways.
They propose to use diffusion-tensor imaging (DTI) to measure traumatic white matter injury and magnetoencephalography (MEG) to detect impaired cortical activation, and they expect that the combined results will correlate with neurocognitive status and functional recovery following traumatic brain injury. They will compare imaging results from patients experiencing symptoms following head injury, over time, with those from healthy volunteers, to determine whether this combined use of MEG and DTI provide valid biomarkers for predicting long-term outcomes from head injuries.
Significance: If the combined use of MEG and DTI is found to accurately identify and characterize head injury, this method could become a standard tool for basing decisions on treatment and rehabilitation approaches and for assessing the effectiveness of experimental therapeutic and rehabilitative interventions.