New scan to see undetected brain damage

Todd Vandenbark

medical technology innovationsAccording to an article in the New York Times, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center are running high-powered MRI scans through a special software program to map the brain’s major fiber tracts, rendering them in different colors that indicate their function. Then researchers “look for breaks in the fibers that could slow, even stop, those nerve connections from doing their assigned job.” This can be used to determine the extent of traumatic brain injury (TBI), and predict where the challenges in therapy will be.

The story goes on to cite the story of a 32-year old automobile accident victim, who could not move his left hand, arm or leg immediately after the injury. Use of the high-definition fiber tracking showed that the nerves serving the hand had greater damage than those for the arm and leg. The patient is now walking and using his arm, but cannot open his hand.

Knowledge is power, and for a person with TBI, it would be immensely helpful to know that a lack of progress in recovering is not due to a lack of effort on their part. In the future, scans like these might also be used to track and learn about how our brains grow new nerve connections.

The case report on this was published today in the Journal of Neurosurgery.

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