One of the most frustrating aspects of traumatic brain injuries, for both survivors and medical professionals, is the lack of clarity and guesswork involved with recovery and rehabilitation. Every brain injury (and brain) is literally unique; so predictions on TBI recovery and time are all over the map. Enter a research team at University of Pittsburgh with an impressive brain imaging technique that can help add understanding and reliability for brain injury recovery prospects.
The U Pittsburgh team came up with a high resolution scanning method using standard MRI machines to map and track white matter in the brain (white matter are the “wires” or fiber tracks that connect different parts of the brain together). Using this technique, the researchers were able identify (and accurately predict) the level of recovery that this patient would have following an ATV accident:
The damage to the fiber tracks (in yellow) controlling the left side of the body are clear. The researchers also accurately predicted that this patient would be able to walk again after rehabilitation, but that use of his left hand would be permanently impaired. Being able to see this level of detail in a brain injury is a big step ahead in diagnosing and treating TBI.
(Note to self and readers: Always wear a helmet when on an ATV, motorbike or cycle!)
In addition to sports and recreation brain injuries, I can see this imaging technique being very useful for military applications. Blast related brain injuries can be very problematic since there are no “direct impact” injuries in many cases. This is a very useful imaging tool that can be added to other existing brain injury tests.
Photos courtesy Walter Schneider Laboratory, University of Pittsburgh