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Front Neurosci. 2018 Aug 17;12:573. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00573. eCollection 2018.

Detection and Distinction of Mild Brain Injury Effects in a Ferret Model Using Diffusion Tensor MRI (DTI) and DTI-Driven Tensor-Based Morphometry (D-TBM).

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Section on Quantitative Medical Imaging, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, United States.
The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc., Bethesda, MD, United States.
Department of Anatomy, Physiology, and Genetics, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD, United States.
Section on Quantitative Imaging and Tissue Sciences, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, United States.


Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is highly prevalent but lacks both research tools with adequate sensitivity to detect cellular alterations that accompany mild injury and pre-clinical models that are able to robustly mimic hallmark features of human TBI. To address these related challenges, high-resolution diffusion tensor MRI (DTI) analysis was performed in a model of mild TBI in the ferret - a species that, unlike rodents, share with humans a gyrencephalic cortex and high white matter (WM) volume. A set of DTI image analysis tools were optimized and implemented to explore key features of DTI alterations in ex vivo adult male ferret brains (n = 26), evaluated 1 day to 16 weeks after mild controlled cortical impact (CCI). Using template-based ROI analysis, lesion overlay mapping and DTI-driven tensor-based morphometry (D-TBM) significant differences in DTI and morphometric values were found and their dependence on time after injury evaluated. These observations were also qualitatively compared with immunohistochemistry staining of neurons, astrocytes, and microglia in the same tissue. Focal DTI abnormalities including reduced cortical diffusivity were apparent in 12/13 injured brains with greatest lesion extent found acutely following CCI by ROI overlay maps and reduced WM FA in the chronic period was observed near to the CCI site (ANOVA for FA in focal WM: time after CCI p = 0.046, brain hemisphere p = 0.0012) often in regions without other prominent MRI abnormalities. Global abnormalities were also detected, especially for WM regions, which demonstrated reduced diffusivity (ANOVA for Trace: time after CCI p = 0.007) and atrophy that appeared to become more extensive and bilateral with longer time after injury (ANOVA for D-TBM Log of the Jacobian values: time after CCI p = 0.007). The findings of this study extend earlier work in rodent models especially by evaluation of focal WM abnormalities that are not influenced by partial volume effects in the ferret. There is also substantial overlap between DTI and morphometric findings in this model and those from human studies of mTBI implying that the combination of DTI tools with a human-similar model system can provide an advantageous and informative approach for mTBI research.


controlled cortical impact; diffusion tensor MRI; ferret; mild traumatic brain injury; tensor-based morphometry; white matter

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