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Far-Reaching Impact of Traumatic Brain Injury Discovered

SOMMERVILLE, Massachusetts — In a groundbreaking study published in the journal Cerebral Cortex on March 8, 2024, scientists at Tufts University School of Medicine shed light on the extensive impact of traumatic brain injury (TBI) on brain function. Led by Samantha Bottom-Tanzer, an MD/PhD student in neuroscience, the research team unveiled that TBIs, often caused by car accidents or falls, can trigger profound changes in the brain.

Through experiments with lab mice, the researchers uncovered a collaborative effort between the brain’s two hemispheres to forge new neural connections, striving to compensate for the damaged ones. “Even areas far away from the injury behaved differently immediately afterward,” remarked Bottom-Tanzer, emphasizing the broader implications of their findings.

Despite a decrease in overall neuron-to-neuron connectivity post-injury, mice exhibited normal behavior on an exercise wheel. However, the activity patterns in injured brains markedly differed from healthy brains. Senior author Chris Dulla highlighted the implications of these findings, stating, “After traumatic brain injury, this ability is not as robust, indicating such events are impairing how the brain switches states in a way that we don’t yet understand.

Given the prevalence of TBIs and their consequential health issues, the researchers anticipate clinical applications for their findings. With tens of thousands of Americans succumbing to TBIs annually, improved imaging techniques during various activities could enhance diagnosis and treatment strategies.

Bottom-Tanzer underscored the complexity of brain injuries, suggesting that the dynamic nature of the brain necessitates a nuanced approach to therapy. “Most people think of the brain in one state, but our data indicates there are fluctuations,” she noted, hinting at potential interventions in physical and speech therapy.

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