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Brain. 2012 Apr;135(Pt 4):1281-92. doi: 10.1093/brain/aws073.

Biomarkers of increased diffusion anisotropy in semi-acute mild traumatic brain injury: a longitudinal perspective.

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  • 1The Mind Research Network, Lovelace Biomedical and Environmental Research Institute, Albuquerque, NM 87106, USA.

Abstract

Mild traumatic brain injury is the most prevalent neurological insult and frequently results in neurobehavioural sequelae. However, little is known about the pathophysiology underlying the injury and how these injuries change as a function of time. Although diffusion tensor imaging holds promise for in vivo characterization of white matter pathology, both the direction and magnitude of anisotropic water diffusion abnormalities in axonal tracts are actively debated. The current study therefore represents both an independent replication effort (n = 28) of our previous findings (n = 22) of increased fractional anisotropy during semi-acute injury, as well as a prospective study (n = 26) on the putative recovery of diffusion abnormalities. Moreover, new analytical strategies were applied to capture spatially heterogeneous white matter injuries, which minimize implicit assumptions of uniform injury across diverse clinical presentations. Results indicate that whereas a general pattern of high anisotropic diffusion/low radial diffusivity was present in various white matter tracts in both the replication and original cohorts, this pattern was only consistently observed in the genu of the corpus callosum across both samples. Evidence for a greater number of localized clusters with increased anisotropic diffusion was identified across both cohorts at trend levels, confirming heterogeneity in white matter injury. Pooled analyses (50 patients; 50 controls) suggested that measures of diffusion within the genu were predictive of patient classification, albeit at very modest levels (71% accuracy). Finally, we observed evidence of recovery in lesion load in returning patients across a 4-month interval, which was correlated with a reduction in self-reported post-concussive symptomatology. In summary, the corpus callosum may serve as a common point of injury in mild traumatic brain injury secondary to anatomical (high frequency of long unmyelinated fibres) and biomechanics factors. A spatially heterogeneous pattern of increased anisotropic diffusion exists in various other white matter tracts, and these white matter anomalies appear to diminish with recovery. This macroscopic pattern of diffusion abnormalities may be associated with cytotoxic oedema following mechanical forces, resulting in changes in ionic homeostasis, and alterations in the ratio of intracellular and extracellular water. Animal models more specific to the types of mild traumatic brain injury typically incurred by humans are needed to confirm the histological correlates of these macroscopic markers of white matter pathology.

PMID:
22505633
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3326260
Free PMC Article
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