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New technique puts brain-imaging research on its head

he subjects are placed in the soft netting of a head guide, and are asked to raise and lower their heads about an inch inside an MRI machine. The process is repeated several times as the MRI pieces together a complete movie of the brain's response to these skull motions.

"Phil (Bayly) has developed a set of state-of-the-art hardware and software to synchronize and analyze all of these measurements," said Genin. "The systems he has developed will allow us to explore a broad range of questions critical to understanding mild traumatic brain injury."

"It's an interesting thing that in many occipital impact injuries, people often find the greatest injury in the front of the brain," Bayly said. "That has been a puzzle for a long time and there have been numerous different explanations for it. What we see with the MRI is quite a bit of mechanical deformation in the front of the brain when the skull is hit from the rear. It seems to be because the brain is trying to pull away from some constraints in the front of the brain."

Bayly and his collaborators can apply the levels of deformation they have found with their subjects to in vitro experiments or to animal models to learn even more about brain matter deformation. They have done experiments on humans with the head dropping forward, and plan to study different acceleration profiles, including rotations.

"This method is a starting point that we hope will take the guesswork out of brain matter deformation analysis," Bayly said. "We can now quantify brain deformation from these very low, mild accelerations with MRI. We are working with Washington University School of Medicine faculty in hopes of some day developing therapeutic remedies for traumatic brain injuries and concussions.

"The most immediate application of our data will be in the development and validation of computer simulations of traumatic brain injury, which may ultimately reduce the need for direct experimentation.
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Source:Washington University in St. Louis


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