People with traumatic brain injury could see the damage on their brain develop and evolve over months, a study said. This could throw up new ways of treating brain injuries.

Epileptic, psychiatric and cognitive dysfunctions are some of the most standard symptoms of disability connected to traumatic brain injury (TBI).It has been found that the most common cause for TBI is accidents related to motor vehicles. Some of the other causes of TBI are sports injuries, falls and violent crimes. The study was financed by the Victorian Neurotrauma Initiative. The research was published in The Journal of Nuclear Medicine (JNM).

“The results provided new insights into the progressive nature of how the brain changes following injury,” said Professor Terry O’Brien, Head of the University of Melbourne’s Department of Medicine at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. “Patients who suffer brain injury commonly experience long-term neurological and psychiatric problems, including memory and thinking difficulties, anxiety and depression, and epilepsy. Currently there are no effective interventions to reduce the incidence or severity of these problems,” he added.

“We have demonstrated that changes in brain structure and function after traumatic brain injury are dynamic and continue to progress and evolve for many months. This opens up a window of opportunity to give treatments to halt this damage, and therefore reduce the long term neurological and psychiatric complications that many patients experience,” he explained.

Experiments were conducted on animal models by utilizing imaging techniques like positron emission tomography (PET) combined with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The research team’s aim was to understand the structural and the long-term functional changes that happen post TBI.

The research revealed extensive reduction in brain function in specific areas of the brain. The study found that many of the changes are seen in areas different from the location of the actual trauma. These areas did not show any signs of injury on the MRI scan. Most changes were witnessed in the hippocampus, a brain structure significant to emotion and memory.

It is not necessary for the patients to take up expensive and lengthy clinical trials. The research will help in testing the new therapies for their biological effectiveness. “Our discovery could also be applicable to the study of other neurological diseases, such as stroke, dementia, multiple sclerosis brain infections and epilepsy, which are associated with long-term progressive degenerative changes in the brain,” Professor O’Brien said.

Cognitive disabilities coupled with delayed learning, lack of concentration and loss of memory are some of the long-term disabilities resulting from TBI. Behavioral and psychiatric troubles are also associated with TBI. It is one of the foremost reasons for disability and death.