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Blasts may cause brain injury even without symptoms
Date:3/3/2014

include those with brain injury from direct hits to the head.

To measure injury to the brain, the researchers used a type of MRI called Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI). DTI can detect injury to the brain's white matter by measuring the flow of fluid in the brain. In healthy white matter, fluid moves in a directional manner, suggesting that the white matter fibers are intact. Injured fibers allow the fluid to diffuse.

White matter is the connective wiring that links different areas of the brain. Since most cognitive processes involve multiple parts of the brain working together, injury to white matter can impair the brain's communication network and may result in cognitive problems.

Both groups of veterans who were near an explosion, regardless of whether they had TBI symptoms, showed a significant amount of injury compared to the veterans not exposed to a blast. The injury was not isolated to one area of the brain, and each individual had a different pattern of injury.

Using neuropsychological testing to assess cognitive performance, the researchers found a relationship between the amount of white matter injury and changes in reaction time and the ability to switch between mental tasks. However, brain injury was not linked to performance on other cognitive tests, including decision-making and organization.

"We expected the group that reported few symptoms at the time of primary blast exposure to be similar to the group without exposure. It was a surprise to find relatively similar DTI changes in both groups exposed to primary blast," said Katherine H. Taber, Ph.D., a research health scientist at the W.G. (Bill) Hefner Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the study's lead author. "We are not sure whether this indicates differences among individuals in symptoms-reporting or subconcussive effects of primary blast. It is clear there is more we need to know about the functional consequences of blast exposures."

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Contact: Rachel Harrison
rachel.harrison@duke.edu
919-419-5069
Duke University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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