A review of magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging findings in mild traumatic brain injury

Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, VA Boston Healthcare System, Brockton, MA, USA.
Brain Imaging and Behavior (Impact Factor: 4.6). 03/2012; 6(2). DOI: 10.1007/s11682-012-9156-5
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), also referred to as concussion, remains a controversial diagnosis because the brain often appears quite normal on conventional computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Such conventional tools, however, do not adequately depict brain injury in mTBI because they are not sensitive to detecting diffuse axonal injuries (DAI), also described as traumatic axonal injuries (TAI), the major brain injuries in mTBI. Furthermore, for the 15 to 30 % of those diagnosed with mTBI on the basis of cognitive and clinical symptoms, i.e., the "miserable minority," the cognitive and physical symptoms do not resolve following the first 3 months post-injury. Instead, they persist, and in some cases lead to long-term disability. The explanation given for these chronic symptoms, i.e., postconcussive syndrome, particularly in cases where there is no discernible radiological evidence for brain injury, has led some to posit a psychogenic origin. Such attributions are made all the easier since both posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression are frequently co-morbid with mTBI. The challenge is thus to use neuroimaging tools that are sensitive to DAI/TAI, such as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), in order to detect brain injuries in mTBI. Of note here, recent advances in neuroimaging techniques, such as DTI, make it possible to characterize better extant brain abnormalities in mTBI. These advances may lead to the development of biomarkers of injury, as well as to staging of reorganization and reversal of white matter changes following injury, and to the ability to track and to characterize changes in brain injury over time. Such tools will likely be used in future research to evaluate treatment efficacy, given their enhanced sensitivity to alterations in the brain. In this article we review the incidence of mTBI and the importance of characterizing this patient population using objective radiological measures. Evidence is presented for detecting brain abnormalities in mTBI based on studies that use advanced neuroimaging techniques. Taken together, these findings suggest that more sensitive neuroimaging tools improve the detection of brain abnormalities (i.e., diagnosis) in mTBI. These tools will likely also provide important information relevant to outcome (prognosis), as well as play an important role in longitudinal studies that are needed to understand the dynamic nature of brain injury in mTBI. Additionally, summary tables of MRI and DTI findings are included. We believe that the enhanced sensitivity of newer and more advanced neuroimaging techniques for identifying areas of brain damage in mTBI will be important for documenting the biological basis of postconcussive symptoms, which are likely associated with subtle brain alterations, alterations that have heretofore gone undetected due to the lack of sensitivity of earlier neuroimaging techniques. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy to point out that detecting brain abnormalities in mTBI does not mean that other disorders of a more psychogenic origin are not co-morbid with mTBI and equally important to treat. They arguably are. The controversy of psychogenic versus physiogenic, however, is not productive because the psychogenic view does not carefully consider the limitations of conventional neuroimaging techniques in detecting subtle brain injuries in mTBI, and the physiogenic view does not carefully consider the fact that PTSD and depression, and other co-morbid conditions, may be present in those suffering from mTBI. Finally, we end with a discussion of future directions in research that will lead to the improved care of patients diagnosed with mTBI.

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Article: A review of magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging findings in mild traumatic brain injury

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    • "As such, they have limited sensitivity and utility. This is reflected in recent reviews of dMRI findings in mTBI that highlight the disparity in findings (Shenton et al. 2012). In addition, recent results in animal models and humans suggest that DTI indices in GM might reveal important information about mTBI, but most DTI analysis tools available today concentrate only on the analysis of the white matter (Budde et al. 2011; Bouix et al. 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) remains one of the most prevalent forms of morbidity among Veterans and Service Members, particularly for those engaged in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Neuroimaging has been considered a potentially useful diagnostic and prognostic tool across the spectrum of TBI generally, but may have particular importance in military populations where the diagnosis of mild TBI is particularly challenging, given the frequent lack of documentation on the nature of the injuries and mixed etiologies, and highly comorbid with other disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and substance misuse. Imaging has also been employed in attempts to understand better the potential late effects of trauma and to evaluate the effects of promising therapeutic interventions. This review surveys the use of structural and functional neuroimaging techniques utilized in military studies published to date, including the utilization of quantitative fluid attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR), susceptibility weighted imaging (SWI), volumetric analysis, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), magnetization transfer imaging (MTI), positron emission tomography (PET), magnetoencephalography (MEG), task-based and resting state functional MRI (fMRI), arterial spin labeling (ASL), and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). The importance of quality assurance testing in current and future research is also highlighted. Current challenges and limitations of each technique are outlined, and future directions are discussed.
    Brain Imaging and Behavior 09/2015; DOI:10.1007/s11682-015-9444-y · 4.60 Impact Factor
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    • "Increased diffusivities are robust and ubiquitous findings in neurodegenerative diseases (Assaf and Pasternak, 2008; Inglese and Bester, 2010; Seppi and Poewe, 2010; Agosta et al., 2011; Shenton et al., 2012), which are likely associated with neuroinflammation. Diffusion MRI is increasingly a very popular modality for schizophrenia studies, mainly because white matter abnormalities are often reported (e.g., see reviews in Fitzsimmons et al., 2013; Kubicki et al., 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: In recent years evidence has accumulated to suggest that neuroinflammation might be an early pathology of schizophrenia that later leads to neurodegeneration, yet the exact role in the etiology, as well as the source of neuroinflammation, are still not known. The hypothesis of neuroinflammation involvement in schizophrenia is quickly gaining popularity, and thus it is imperative that we have reliable and reproducible tools and measures that are both sensitive, and, most importantly, specific to neuroinflammation. The development and use of appropriate human in vivo imaging methods can help in our understanding of the location and extent of neuroinflammation in different stages of the disorder, its natural time-course, and its relation to neurodegeneration. Thus far, there is little in vivo evidence derived from neuroimaging methods. This is likely the case because the methods that are specific and sensitive to neuroinflammation are relatively new or only just being developed. This paper provides a methodological review of both existing and emerging positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance imaging techniques that identify and characterize neuroinflammation. We describe \how these methods have been used in schizophrenia research. We also outline the shortcomings of existing methods, and we highlight promising future techniques that will likely improve state-of-the-art neuroimaging as a more refined approach for investigating neuroinflammation in schizophrenia. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Schizophrenia Research 06/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.schres.2015.05.034 · 3.92 Impact Factor
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    • "In addition to investigating the mechanisms of injury, multimodal imaging may be more sensitive in the detection of the subtle deficits likely to be observed after mTBI. Furthermore, it may help counter the inherent variability of injury in mTBI by allowing individualized profiling across a set of parameters, and thus individual prognosis (Gonzalez and Walker 2011; Hunter et al. 2012; Irimia et al. 2012; McDonald et al. 2012; Shenton et al. 2012; Slobounov et al. 2012 "
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    ABSTRACT: Persistent postconcussion syndrome (PCS) occurs in around 5-10% of individuals after mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), but research into the underlying biology of these ongoing symptoms is limited and inconsistent. One reason for this could be the heterogeneity inherent to mTBI, with individualized injury mechanisms and psychological factors. A multimodal imaging study may be able to characterize the injury better. To look at the relationship between functional (fMRI), structural (diffusion tensor imaging), and metabolic (magnetic resonance spectroscopy) data in the same participants in the long term (>1 year) after injury. It was hypothesized that only those mTBI participants with persistent PCS would show functional changes, and that these changes would be related to reduced structural integrity and altered metabolite concentrations. Functional changes associated with persistent PCS after mTBI (>1 year postinjury) were investigated in participants with and without PCS (both n = 8) and non-head injured participants (n = 9) during performance of working memory and attention/processing speed tasks. Correlation analyses were performed to look at the relationship between the functional data and structural and metabolic alterations in the same participants. There were no behavioral differences between the groups, but participants with greater PCS symptoms exhibited greater activation in attention-related areas (anterior cingulate), along with reduced activation in temporal, default mode network, and working memory areas (left prefrontal) as cognitive load was increased from the easiest to the most difficult task. Functional changes in these areas correlated with reduced structural integrity in corpus callosum and anterior white matter, and reduced creatine concentration in right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These data suggest that the top-down attentional regulation and deactivation of task-irrelevant areas may be compensating for the reduction in working memory capacity and variation in white matter transmission caused by the structural and metabolic changes after injury. This may in turn be contributing to secondary PCS symptoms such as fatigue and headache. Further research is required using multimodal data to investigate the mechanisms of injury after mTBI, but also to aid individualized diagnosis and prognosis.
    Brain and Behavior 02/2015; 5(1):45-61. DOI:10.1002/brb3.292 · 2.24 Impact Factor
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