Links for Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
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ANNE McILROY University of Lethbridge neuroscientists are investigating whether early brain injuries can permanently alter the way genes work in the brain and predispose people to dementia as they age. Evidence suggests that brain injury early in life, including concussion, may contribute to later dementia, says neuroscientist Robert Sutherland. He and his colleagues at the Canadian Centre for Behavioral Neuroscience want to know why. The experiments, although still in laboratory animals, could help explain why some athletes who suffered repeated concussions, such as former National Hockey League player Reggie Fleming, developed a distinctive type of brain damage and symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Sutherland is part of a team that includes Bryan Kolb, Robbin Gibb, Robert McDonald and Olga Kovalchuk. The researchers are looking at how brain injuries influence the chemical switching system that activates and deactivates genes in the brain, or what’s known as the epigenetics of brain injuries. Thousands of genes are active in the brain and each produces one of the proteins that are essential for memory, learning, keeping brain cells alive and working, and for repairing damage. The hypothesis is that brain injuries may trigger permanent changes to the switching system, Dr. Sutherland said. This results in either too much or too little of particular protein getting produced, which over the years can lead to problems or perhaps even changes in the architecture of the brain that might make someone more vulnerable to dementia. © Copyright 2011 The Globe and Mail Inc.
Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 15087 - Posted: 03.10.2011
Cassandra Willyard On 17 February, retired American-football player Dave Duerson committed suicide. The 50-year-old former defensive back for the Chicago Bears left this haunting note for his family: "Please, see that my brain is given to the NFL's brain bank." Then he shot himself in the chest, leaving his brain intact. The brain bank Duerson referred to, located at Bedford VA Medical Center in Massachusetts, is funded by the US National Football League (NFL) and run by Ann McKee, co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University in Massachusetts. She and her colleagues have spent the past several years examining athletes' brains for signs of a neurodegenerative condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Whether Duerson had the disease is still unknown. But his note seems to imply that he feared the worst. Nature examines what researchers know about CTE, what they have yet to understand and what is being done to protect athletes. What is chronic traumatic encephalopathy? CTE is a neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated trauma to the head. "The head trauma usually occurs years, maybe even decades before the person become symptomatic," McKee says. © 2011 Nature Publishing Group,
By EMILY BAZELON At 4 months, Noah Whitmer was an easy baby. Super tranquilo, remembers Trudy Eliana Muñoz Rueda, who took care of Noah at her home day care center in Fairfax County, Va. Rueda and Noah’s mother, Erin Whitmer, both noticed when he stopped taking his bottle well and napping as usual in the middle of his fifth month, in April 2009. Whitmer thought this was because Noah had just started eating solid food. She and Rueda talked about it early on April 20, both of them hunched over Noah in his car seat when Whitmer dropped him off. That afternoon, after a morning in which Noah didn’t nap and drank only a couple of ounces of formula, Rueda says she prepared a bottle for him while he lay on a mat. In her native Peru, Rueda, who is 46, ran a travel agency and taught college courses for prospective tour guides. Her husband was trained as a lawyer. After they moved to the United States in 2001, the couple had a second child, and three years later Rueda converted her basement into a home day care center so she could work while spending time with her two kids. When Rueda sat down to feed Noah, her 13-year-old daughter was at school, her 5-year-old was upstairs watching TV and the four other children in her care were taking naps. Rueda’s sister-in-law, who spent the morning with the children while Rueda was at a doctor’s appointment, had just left the house. “Everything was calm and quiet,” Rueda, who has soft features and dark hair, told me in Spanish while her lawyer translated. There are two irreconcilable versions of how that calm shattered. Rueda says that Noah was crying, and she picked him up, sat on the couch and gave him the bottle to help put him to sleep. While she was feeding him, she felt Noah’s arm go limp, and when she moved to take the bottle out of his mouth, he made a sound that she didn’t recognize. “I could tell something was happening,” she says. She stood up and put Noah on her shoulder, patting him on the back. “As I did this, his body tensed up in a ball. It was as if he was looking for air, and he couldn’t breathe.” © 2011 The New York Times Company
Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 14964 - Posted: 02.07.2011
HOUSTON — The Houston hospital treating Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said Sunday that her condition is improving daily, but gave no update on the buildup of brain fluid that has kept the Arizona congresswoman in intensive care. A hospital statement said Giffords would continue to receive therapy in the intensive care unit "until her physicians determine she is ready for transfer" to a nearby center where she would begin a full rehabilitation program. They said the next medical updates would be provided when that happens. Giffords was flown to Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center Hospital on Friday from Tucson, where she was shot in the forehead on Jan. 8 while meeting with constituents. Story: Case in Giffords shooting likely to take years At a news conference shortly after her arrival in Houston, doctors said she had been given a tube to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid. Everyone makes such fluid, but an injury can cause the fluid to not be cleared away as rapidly as normal. A backup can cause pressure and swelling within the brain. "It's a common problem," occurring in 15 to 20 percent of people with a brain injury or brain surgery, said Dr. Reid C. Thompson, chairman of neurological surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, who is not involved in Giffords' care. Another possible reason for a drainage tube: "After a gunshot wound to the head and brain where there is a lot of soft tissue injury, it is common to develop a leak of spinal fluid. This raises the risk of a meningitis and slows down wound healing," he said. Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 14909 - Posted: 01.24.2011
by Tracy Staedter Reports this morning about Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' (D-Ariz.) condition are, so far, positive. The bullet that entered her skull did so from the back-left section of the brain and exited through the front-left section. In doing so, it missed critical brain structures and major blood vessels. During surgery, the doctors at Arizona's University Medical Center removed a large portion of Giffords' skull to allow the brain to swell without being damaged. They also used drugs to induce a coma, which slows the metabolism and blood flow in the brain, decreasing pressure. A medically induced coma is different from one that's the result of an overdose, a disease or trauma. With a medically induced coma, the doctors can generally change the drug dosage to bring the patient back into consciousness. But not so with comas, which can leave a person unconscious for hours, weeks -- even years. Thinking about this condition reminded me of a talk I heard at the PopTech conference last fall given by Adrian Owen, senior scientist and assistant director of the Medical Research Council's Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambridge, U.K. Owen and his team are using brain-imaging techniques to determine the levels of consciousness in patients who are in a vegetative state. Some of these patients seem wakeful; they open their eyes, make noises and appear to look around. But, they're not awake. They do not ever look directly at objects or people, nor do they respond to people or commands. According to Owen, wakefulness and awareness are two different components of consciousness. Wakefulness can be observed and measured using an EKG machine that picks up brain wave activity. © 2011 Discovery Communications, LLC.
Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 2: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 14866 - Posted: 01.13.2011
By LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN, M.D. WASHINGTON — The bullet that a gunman fired into Representative Gabrielle Giffords’s head on Saturday morning in Arizona went straight through the left side of her brain, entering the back of her skull and exiting the front. Trauma surgeons spent two hours on Saturday following an often-performed drill developed from extensive experience treating gunshot wounds in foreign wars and violence in American homes and streets. On Saturday, that drill really began outside a supermarket, with paramedics performing triage to determine the seriousness of the wounds in each of the 20 gunshot victims. Ms. Giffords, 40, was taken to the University Medical Center in Tucson, where, 38 minutes after arrival, she was whisked to an operating room. She did not speak at the hospital. As part of the two-hour operation, her surgeons said on Sunday, they removed debris from the gunshot, a small amount of dead brain tissue and nearly half of Ms. Giffords’s skull to prevent swelling that could transmit increased pressure to cause more extensive and permanent brain damage. The doctors preserved the skull bone for later replanting. Since surgery, they have used short-acting drugs to put Ms. Giffords in a medical coma that they lift periodically to check on her neurological responses. They said early signs made them cautiously optimistic that Ms. Giffords would survive the devastating wound. © 2011 The New York Times Company
By ALAN SCHWARZ In a finding that could eventually lead to ways to identify and perhaps treat athletes who have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Boston-based researchers announced on Wednesday that a new imaging technique found chemical changes in the brains of living athletes with a history of head trauma. C.T.E., whose diagnosis in more than a dozen deceased N.F.L. players and one collegian has helped lift the dangers of sports concussions to national prominence, can be confirmed only through a specialized examination of brain tissue after death. As such, the question of whether a particular living athlete who is showing symptoms of the disease — anger control, memory loss and more — has C.T.E. has remained only gnawing speculation. At the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting in Chicago, Dr. Alexander Lin of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston described how magnetic resonance spectroscopy scans identified biomarkers in five athletes showing signs of C.T.E. The subjects were three retired N.F.L. players, one boxer and one wrestler; their scans were compared with those of nonathletes of the same age and relative lifestyle. “We measured the brain chemistry of men with a broad history of brain trauma and found these changes that indicate something biochemically abnormal,” Lin said. “We don’t know whether they have C.T.E. We don’t know at this point if these living changes are related.” Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company
Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain; Chapter 2: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System
Link ID: 14730 - Posted: 12.02.2010
By ALAN SCHWARZ NORMAN, Okla. — Moments after her son finished practicing with his fifth-grade tackle football team, Beth Sparks examined his scuffed and battered helmet for what she admitted was the first time. She looked at the polycarbonate shell and felt the foam inside before noticing a small emblem on the back that read, “MEETS NOCSAE STANDARD.” “I would think that means it meets the national guidelines — you know, for head injuries, concussions, that sort of thing,” she said. “That’s what it would mean to me.” That assumption, made by countless parents, coaches, administrators and even doctors involved with the 4.4 million children who play tackle football, is just one of many false beliefs in the largely unmonitored world of football helmets. Helmets both new and used are not — and have never been — formally tested against the forces believed to cause concussions. The industry, which receives no governmental or other independent oversight, requires helmets for players of all ages to withstand only the extremely high-level force that would otherwise fracture skulls. The standard has not changed meaningfully since it was written in 1973, despite rising concussion rates in youth football and the growing awareness of how the injury can cause significant short- and long-term problems with memory, depression and other cognitive functions, especially in children. Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company
By MARILYN BERGER During the horrendous heat wave in July, when all of us in New York were not quite ourselves, I started feeling funny. I was sleeping too much; my right foot was dragging; my typing was skewed; I lost interest in reading the paper, about which I am usually obsessive. I figured I’d been done in by the weather. But when it improved and I didn’t, I finally gave in and called my longtime doctor, a brilliant diagnostician who had given me my annual checkup just a month earlier. I hate to be the kind of patient who calls about every hangnail, and worse, I couldn’t report anything specific — just the foot and a sort of general lethargy. It didn’t occur to me to connect my symptoms with a minor accident I’d had in May, when I fell off my bike onto the grass, crunching my helmet. (At my checkup, the doctor and I had discussed this and another fall I’d taken, noting the curiosity that when you’re young you “fall,” but when you’re older you “have a fall.”) But when there’s something wrong with your head, I’ve discovered, you have no way of knowing there is something wrong with your head. And that Catch-22 almost proved fatal. I described my symptoms to my doctor on the phone, and she replied crisply: “Doesn’t sound like you. Go see a neurologist.” Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company
By TARA PARKER-POPE During basketball practice last year, 12-year-old Nicole Dehart was shooting the ball when a defender tried aggressively to block her shot. The two players made contact, and Nicole hit the floor headfirst. “The way she was hit took her whole body out from under her, and she landed directly on her head,” said her mother, Christine White, of Pataskala, Ohio. “We immediately knew this was serious. She was very confused and looking at people like she didn’t know who they were.” At the hospital, doctors diagnosed a concussion —an increasingly common injury in youth basketball, particularly among girls, yet one that has yet to gain widespread attention. In fact, Ms. White said, she knew enough to worry about concussions — but when Nicole played soccer, not basketball. “I worried more about broken bones, being that it is a hard floor,” she said. “But the physical contact of basketball is a lot like football inside.” On Monday, the medical journal Pediatrics reported that about 375,000 children and teenagers are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year for basketball-related injuries. Notably, the proportion related to head trauma is on the rise. In 2007, the last year of the study, about 4 percent of youth basketball injuries were to the head, about double the number of such injuries reported by emergency rooms in 1997. Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company
By Steve Yanda Across the spectrum of athletics from youth soccer to the National Football League, concussions are one of the most worrisome of injuries: hard to diagnose and even harder to know when an athlete has recovered. Now, in an unusual combination of real sports and their digital imitators, a handful of colleges, including the University of Maryland, are turning to a video game for help. Athletic trainers in College Park and on other campuses are using the Wii Fit video game as an objective and practical -- if unproven -- method of assessing athletes' balance, an important yardstick for determining recovery from concussion. For the past year, Maryland and Ohio State have partnered to conduct research into the reliability of Wii Fit -- an exercise video game played on Nintendo's Wii console, which allows for physical interaction between player and game -- as an effective concussion management instrument. Darryl Conway, Maryland's head athletic trainer, said this will be the third year the school has used components of the game to conduct baseline testing of its athletes' balance. Proponents of using Wii Fit as a tool to examine concussions praise its simplicity and affordability -- not to mention its popularity with student-athletes. "The athletes love it because what we've done is we've incorporated this fun game that they're playing at home into their rehab system," said Tamerah Hunt, director of research at the Ohio State Sports Concussion Program. "But they're also enjoying it at a time when they're injured or at a time when their spirits are down, and they have to come into the athletic training room every day and they have to get all this treatment . . . and it's kind of a reaction of, 'Oh, this is fun.' " © 2010 The Washington Post Company
by Carl Zimmer Every spring the National Football League conducts that most cherished of American rituals, the college draft. A couple of months before the event, prospective players show off their abilities in an athletic audition known as the combine. Last winter’s combine was different from that of previous years, though. Along with the traditional 40-yard dashes and bench presses, the latest crop of aspirants also had to log time in front of a computer, trying to solve a series of brainteasers. In one test, Xs and Os were sprinkled across the computer screen as the athletes took a test that measured how well they could remember the position of each letter. In another, words like red and blue appeared on the screen in different colors. The football players had to press a key as quickly as possible if the word matched its color. These teasers are not intended to help coaches make their draft picks. They are for the benefit of the players themselves—or, to be more precise, for the benefit of the players’ gray matter. Under pressure from Congress, the N.F.L. is taking steps to do a better job of protecting its players from brain damage. The little computer challenges that the draft candidates had to solve measure some of the brain’s most crucial functions, such as its ability to hold several pieces of information at once. Given the nature of football, it is extremely likely that a number of this year’s draft picks will someday suffer a head injury on the field. After that happens, N.F.L. doctors will give them the same tests again. By comparing the new results with the baseline scores recorded just before the draft, the doctors will get a clearer sense of how badly the football players have damaged their brains and what degree of caution to take during recovery.
By Marita Vera There is nothing more exhilarating for a boxing audience than to see a fighter hit the mat in a knockout. But being on the losing end of a KO punch can damage a lot more than a pugilist's pride—research suggests that the blows that cause knockouts can be debilitating to a boxer's short and long-term health. Repeated blows to the brain can cause chronic damage such as personality changes and dementia. If the punches have enough impact to cause uncontrollable brain swelling or hemorrhage, the fighter could even die. So what causes a knockout? Concussions, and lots of them. While it often seems as though the effect is caused by a single well-placed shot, it is usually the result of many quick punches. Each punch creates a concussion (technically defined as any head injury that causes a disruption of neurological function), and each concussion brings the boxer closer to a state of darkness. Here's how it happens: The body contains dissolved sodium, potassium and calcium, collectively known as electrolytes, which are responsible for conducting impulses along neurons. Every time a fighter receives a blow to a nerve, potassium leaves the cell and calcium rushes in, destabilizing the electrolyte balance, while the brain does all it can to keep these levels in balance. With each successive blow, this balance becomes harder and harder to maintain, and more and more energy must be spent in the process. When the body reaches the point where the damage outweighs the body's ability to repair itself, the brain shuts down to conserve enough energy to fix the injured neurons at a later point. ©2010 Hearst Communication, Inc.
By ALAN SCHWARZ The National Football League is producing a poster that bluntly alerts its players to the long-term effects of concussions, using words like “depression” and “early onset of dementia” that those close to the issue described as both staggering and overdue. The poster, soon to be hung in locker rooms leaguewide, becomes by far the N.F.L.’s most definitive statement on the cognitive risks of football, which it had discredited for most of the past several years as academic studies and reports of deceased players’ brain damage mounted. The new document also warns players that repeated concussions “can change your life and your family’s life forever,” a clear nod to retired players’ wives who have spoken out on the issue, occasionally before Congress. A draft of the poster also features photographs of unnamed youngsters in various sports with the reminder, “Other athletes are watching.” The new poster, which will also become a brochure given to all players, presents a stark change in league approach. It replaces a pamphlet given since 2007 that said, “Current research with professional athletes has not shown that having more than one or two concussions leads to permanent problems if each injury is treated properly,” and also left open the question of “if there are any long-term effects of concussion in N.F.L. athletes.” Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company
By Charles Q. Choi The blast waves from explosions could jolt the skull into generating electricity, potentially damaging the brain, scientists now suggest. Although the burns and shrapnel wounds that explosions can inflict are their most obvious hazards, perhaps the greatest danger comes from a blast's shock wave. These rapidly generate ripples in a person's innards, potentially causing traumatic brain injuries with deleterious effects ranging from a simple concussion to long-term impaired mental function. Now scientists have uncovered a surprising possible way by which a blast might affect the brain — electric fields created when bone is hit by a shock wave. Story continues below ↓advertisement | your ad here "It's always exciting to look at a phenomenon that may have been missed in the past," said researcher Steven Johnson, a theoretical physicist at MIT. "Moreover, this is potentially an issue that can directly affect the lives of our soldiers , which gives it a special interest for all of us who are involved." A variety of materials generate electricity when mechanically stressed. This effect, known as piezoelectricity, is commonly seen in guitar pickups and loudspeakers. Johnson and his colleagues developed a new computer model of the electric fields generated in the skull by an improvised explosive device (IED) — the kind often rigged up nowadays in combat zones. The model results suggest the generated electric fields could exceed electrical safety guidelines by a factor of 10. In fact, they might be comparable in magnitude to medical procedures employing electromagnetic fields that can disrupt brain function. © 2010 LiveScience.com.
Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry; Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain; Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Link ID: 14001 - Posted: 06.24.2010
By ALAN SCHWARZ ANNAPOLIS, Md.,— The night that Sylvia Mackey and Eleanor Perfetto first met, back in October at a Baltimore Ravens reception for former National Football League players and their families, their connection was immediate. As she sat on a couch with her husband, Mrs. Mackey watched Dr. Perfetto cradle the hand of her husband as he blankly shuffled across the floor toward the Mackeys. “Your husband has dementia,” Mrs. Mackey said. “Yours does, too,” Dr. Perfetto replied. “We both just knew,” Dr. Perfetto recalled on Friday, when the two visited the assisted-living facility where Dr. Perfetto’s husband, Ralph Wenzel, resides. Mrs. Mackey quickly added, “You can see it in the wives’ faces just like the husbands’.” On that evening last October, Mrs. Mackey added another N.F.L. wife to her growing network of women who seek her guidance and support as their husbands deteriorate mentally. Her husband, John, was a Hall of Fame tight end for the Baltimore Colts in the late 1960s and early ’70s, and is probably the most notable victim of dementia among former football players. Mrs. Mackey said that she regularly communicates with about 10 women like Dr. Perfetto as they learn to handle their husbands’ dementia, which often begins as early as their 50s. “I know about 20 in all,” Mrs. Mackey said. “And if I know 20, there are probably 60 or 80 out there.” Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
By ALAN SCHWARZ Since the former National Football League player Andre Waters killed himself in November, an explanation for his suicide has remained a mystery. But after examining remains of Mr. Waters’s brain, a neuropathologist in Pittsburgh is claiming that Mr. Waters had sustained brain damage from playing football and he says that led to his depression and ultimate death. Chris Nowinski, a former Harvard football player and professional wrestler, contacted Dr. Bennet Omalu after he read about Mr. Waters’s suicide. The neuropathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu of the University of Pittsburgh, a leading expert in forensic pathology, determined that Mr. Waters’s brain tissue had degenerated into that of an 85-year-old man with similar characteristics as those of early-stage Alzheimer’s victims. Dr. Omalu said he believed that the damage was either caused or drastically expedited by successive concussions Mr. Waters, 44, had sustained playing football. In a telephone interview, Dr. Omalu said that brain trauma “is the significant contributory factor” to Mr. Waters’s brain damage, “no matter how you look at it, distort it, bend it. It’s the significant forensic factor given the global scenario.” He added that although he planned further investigation, the depression that family members recalled Mr. Waters exhibiting in his final years was almost certainly exacerbated, if not caused, by the state of his brain — and that if he had lived, within 10 or 15 years “Andre Waters would have been fully incapacitated.” Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 9855 - Posted: 06.24.2010
by Andy Coghlan Crazy as it sounds, alcohol may one day be given to people with brain injuries to help them recover. The idea has arisen from a study of 38,000 people with head injuries, which found that those with alcohol in their blood were more likely to survive. For every 100 people who died when stone-cold sober, only 88 died with ethanol – the kind of alcohol in drinks – in their veins. "The finding raises the intriguing possibility that administering ethanol to patients with brain injuries may improve outcome," conclude the investigators. Lead researcher Ali Salim of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles said he hoped a trial could be mounted, but more information is needed first. "We need a better understanding of the exact mechanism, the appropriate dose and specific timing of treatment before we can embark on clinical trials," he told New Scientist. Salim said that several previous studies have found similar beneficial effects – although others do not. Animal experiments, meanwhile, suggest that relatively low doses of alcohol protect the brain from injury, but high doses increase the risk of death. More research is also needed to establish how alcohol protects the brain, but Salim says it may work by blunting the amount of adrenalin reaching the brain, which reduces inflammation. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd
Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 13290 - Posted: 06.24.2010
By Andrew Holtz PORTLAND, OREGON -- It is easy to understand how explosions involving shrapnel – such as those caused by improvised explosive devices in Iraq – could cause brain damage. But what about such injuries that seem to be caused by blasts themselves, rather than from being thrown or hit by shrapnel? Researchers have a few ideas, but one scientist has used some of the world’s most powerful computers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California to get a better answer. Willy Moss and colleague Michael King used available data on blast waves from explosions and the physical properties of the human skull, brain and cerebrospinal fluid to craft a three-dimensional simulation of a soldier standing less than 15 feet from an explosion of 5 lbs. of C4. (See image to the right.) “It sweeps over. There’s lots of oscillation. The skull is ringing. It’s not pleasant,” Moss told the audience at the meeting of the Acoustical Society of America here. Moss says their simulations suggest that the intense pressures of such blasts flex the skull and ripple the brain. Pressures as little as one atmosphere over normal atmospheric pressure can do that kind of damage. They repeated the simulation to include helmets, first using data from an older style that uses webbing to create space around a soldier’s head. (See video below.) “What you see is the blast sweeps under the helmet. It acts as a wind scoop; it focuses the blast. The blast pressure is bigger between your head and the helmet than if you weren’t wearing the helmet at all.” © 1996-2009 Scientific American Inc.
HELEN BRANSWELL Traumatic brain injuries have become the signature wound of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and troops who sustain them face a daunting array of potential medical consequences later on, a report on the issue commissioned by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The report from the Institute of Medicine – a body that advises the U.S. government on science, medicine and health – said military personnel who sustain severe or even moderate brain injuries may go on to develop Alzheimer's-like dementia or symptoms similar to Parkinson's, a neurodegenerative disease. They face a higher risk of developing seizure disorders and psychoses, problems with social interactions and difficulty holding down a job. Troops who sustain even mild brain injuries are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And all are at a higher risk of experiencing aggressive behaviour, depression and memory problems. The report urged the U.S. government to ramp up research in the area, saying there is not enough evidence in the medical literature – especially as relates to mild brain injuries – to determine what today's troops face and how best to help them recover from or cope with the health problems they may develop. © Copyright 2008 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc.