Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Veterans with mild TBI have brain abnormalities

Date:
February 7, 2013
Source:
University of Iowa
Summary:
A study by psychiatrists finds that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) have measurable abnormalities in the white matter of their brains when compared to returning veterans who have not experienced TBI.

Veterans of the mideast conflicts with mild TBI have measurable abnormalities in the white matter of their brains compared to returning veterans who have not experienced TBI. Image shows composite illustration of white matter potholes (red and yellow dots) in brains of veterans with probable TBI (column on the right), possible TBI (middle column and no TBI (column on the left).
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Iowa

Mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), including concussion, is one of the most common types of neurological disorder, affecting approximately 1.3 million Americans annually. It has received more attention recently because of its frequency and impact among two groups of patients: professional athletes, especially football players; and soldiers returning from mid-east conflicts with blast-related TBI. An estimated 10 to 20 percent of the more than 2 million U.S. soldiers deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan have experienced TBI.

Related Articles


A recent study by psychiatrists from the Iowa City VA Medical Center and University of Iowa Health Care finds that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with mild TBI have measurable abnormalities in the white matter of their brains when compared to returning veterans who have not experienced TBI. These abnormalities appear to be related to the severity of the injury and are related to cognitive deficits. The findings were published online in December in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

"In the military population we studied, patients with TBI have more alterations, sometimes called 'potholes,' in the white matter of their brains than patients without a history of TBI," says senior study author Ricardo Jorge, M.D., UI professor of psychiatry. "The more severe the injury, the more white matter abnormalities occur. There is also a correlation between increased numbers of potholes and increased severity of cognitive alterations in executive functions -- the ability to make a plan or a decision, for example."

Despite its prevalence, diagnosing mild TBI is difficult, often relying on a patient's recollection of a possible past head injury. In addition, symptoms of mild TBI tend to be wide-ranging and non-specific, including problems with vision, hearing, balance, emotions, and thinking. There are currently few good tools available to identify the condition or monitor the brain's recovery or deterioration.

Jorge and his colleagues used an MRI-based brain-scanning technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to study the brains of 72 veterans with mild TBI and 21 veterans without mild TBI. DTI measures the diffusion of water along thin fibers known as axons that form connections between brain cells. When axons are intact, water flow (diffusion) follows the axon boundaries and has a well-defined directionality. When the axon is damaged, water diffuses in many directions, a situation referred to as low fractional anisotropy.

"Decreased directionality of the water diffusion is a measure of lower integrity in the white matter," Jorge says.

Analysis of the DTI data allowed the researchers to detect areas of lower integrity in the patients' white matter even though these so-called potholes are scattered randomly throughout the brain and occur in different places in different patients. Veterans with mild TBI had a significantly more potholes than veterans without TBI. The difference in the number of potholes was not influenced by age, time since trauma, a history of mild TBI unrelated to deployment, or coexisting psychological problems like depression, anxiety, or PTSD. The number of potholes did, however, correlate with poorer performance on cognitive tests measuring decision-making and planning skills.

The team also examined the brains of civilians with non-combat-related mild TBI who were assessed early after the injury. These patients have even more white matter potholes than the military group.

Although the results suggest that DTI measurements might hold promise as a tool for detecting and tracking mild TBI in the brain, Jorge cautions that the current study is not large or specific enough to confirm that DTI-detected potholes are a biomarker for TBI brain damage.

"To establish if this DTI approach is a useful technique for diagnosing mild TBI, we need to replicate these findings in a larger study and with patients who have mild TBI from other causes," he says.

The study was conducted at the Iowa City VA Medical Center and was funded by the Veterans Administration and by a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (5R01NS55827).

The team included researchers from the UI Departments of Psychiatry and Radiology, the Iowa Consortium for Substance Abuse Research and Evaluation; the Iowa City Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center; Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; and University of Cantabria, Santander, Spain.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Iowa. The original article was written by Jennifer Brown. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ricardo E. Jorge. White Matter Abnormalities in Veterans With Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2012; 169 (12): 1284 DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2012.12050600

Cite This Page:

University of Iowa. "Veterans with mild TBI have brain abnormalities." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130207114610.htm>.
University of Iowa. (2013, February 7). Veterans with mild TBI have brain abnormalities. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130207114610.htm
University of Iowa. "Veterans with mild TBI have brain abnormalities." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130207114610.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Former NFL Players Donate Brains to Science

Former NFL Players Donate Brains to Science

Reuters - US Online Video (Mar. 3, 2015) Super Bowl champions Sidney Rice and Steve Weatherford donate their brains, post-mortem, to scientific research into repetitive brain trauma. Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alzheimer's Protein Plaque Found In 20-Year-Olds

Alzheimer's Protein Plaque Found In 20-Year-Olds

Newsy (Mar. 3, 2015) Researchers found an abnormal protein associated with Alzheimer&apos;s disease in the brains of 20-year-olds. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Nasal Treatment Could Help Ease Migraine Pain

This Nasal Treatment Could Help Ease Migraine Pain

Newsy (Mar. 2, 2015) Researchers gave lidocaine to 112 patients, and about 88 percent of the subjects said they needed less migraine-relief medicine the next day. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Facebook Use Can Lead To Depression

How Facebook Use Can Lead To Depression

Newsy (Mar. 1, 2015) Margaret Duffy of the University of Missouri talks about her study on the social network and the envy and depression that Facebook use can cause. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins