Seeking Better Understanding of Concussions

Colorful Scan Of Human BrainYou hear a lot about concussions these days.

In news stories about the impact of concussions on professional athletes, or concerns about brain injury in children and soldiers serving overseas, everyone seems to be thinking about the short- and long-term impact on those who suffer concussion and brain injuries.

Physician-scientists at Jefferson are deeply involved in research to better understand what happens to the brain during and after a concussion. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury that can change the way the brain works.

In a Jefferson-led study published in PLOS ONE, researchers used single photon emission computed tomography, or SPECT, to evaluate two different ways to measure physiological brain activity in patients with chronic, mild symptoms from traumatic brain injury (TBI) – i.e. concussions.

The researchers studied 25 concussion patients and 10 people who served as the control group.

Dr. Andrew Newberg

Dr. Andrew Newberg

The researchers used SPECT to track the movement of blood through the brain (cerebral blood flow) and to measure the neurotransmitter dopamine, by tracking the binding of a dopamine transporter tracer.

The TBI patients had significantly more regions with abnormal blood perfusion (an average of six) compared with the controls that averaged two abnormal regions. Moreover, the patients with headaches had lower cerebral blood flow in the right frontal lobe and higher cerebral blood flow in the left parietal lobe, as compared to the patients without headaches.

“This is an important study that shows the potential use for cerebral blood flow and dopamine transporter imaging in the evaluation of patients with chronic head injury,” explained Jefferson radiologist and concussion expert Andrew Newberg, MD, the study’s lead author. “Both imaging techniques provide important and distinct information about the effect of TBI on brain function.”

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