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


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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Available from: Martha E Shenton,
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    • "(Corouge et al., 6 2006; Hagmann et al., 2007; Malcolm et al., 2010; Sporns et al., 2005; Wang 7 et al., 2014), and to investigate many brain disorders such as Alzheimer's 8 disease, schizophrenia, and mild traumatic brain injury, see e.g. (Shenton 9 et al., 2012; Shi et al., 2013; Thomason and Thompson, 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) is the modality of choice for investigating in-vivo white matter connectivity and neural tissue architecture of the brain. The diffusion-weighted signal in dMRI reflects the diffusivity of water molecules in brain tissue and can be utilized to produce image-based biomarkers for clinical research. Due to the constraints on scanning time, a limited number of measurements can be acquired within a clinically feasible scan time. In order to reconstruct the dMRI signal from a discrete set of measurements , a large number of algorithms have been proposed in recent years in conjunction with varying sampling schemes, i.e., with varying b-values and gradient directions. Thus, it is imperative to compare the performance of these reconstruction methods on a single data set to provide appropriate guidelines to neuroscientists on making an informed decision while designing their acquisition protocols. For this purpose, the SParse Reconstruction Challenge (SPARC) was held along with the workshop on Computational Diffusion MRI (at MICCAI 2014) to validate the performance of multiple reconstruction methods using data acquired from a physical phantom. A total of 16 reconstruction algorithms (9 teams) participated in this community challenge. The goal was to reconstruct single b-value and/or multiple b-value data from a sparse set of measurements. In particular, the aim was to determine an appropriate acquisition protocol (in terms of the number of measurements, b-values) and the analysis method to use for a neuroimag-ing study. The challenge did not delve on the accuracy of these methods in estimating model specific measures such as fractional anisotropy (FA) or mean diffusivity, but on the accuracy of these methods to fit the data. This paper presents several quantitative results pertaining to each reconstruction algorithm. The conclusions in this paper provide a valuable guideline for choosing a suitable algorithm and the corresponding data-sampling scheme for clinical neuroscience applications.
    Medical image analysis 12/2015; 26(1). DOI:10.1016/j.media.2015.10.012 · 3.65 Impact Factor
    • "The insensitivity of conventional imaging methods may have spurred the idea that TBI, particularly within the mild range, is not associated with chronic structural damage. This changed with the advent of MR diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which has made the detection of white matter microstructure alterations possible (Hulkower et al., 2013; Shenton et al., 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Recent advances in neuroimaging methodologies sensitive to axonal injury have made it possible to assess in vivo the extent of traumatic brain injury (TBI) -related disruption in neural structures and their connections. The objective of this paper is to review studies examining connectivity in TBI with an emphasis on structural and functional MRI methods that have proven to be valuable in uncovering neural abnormalities associated with this condition. We review studies that have examined white matter integrity in TBI of varying etiology and levels of severity, and consider how findings at different times post-injury may inform underlying mechanisms of post-injury progression and recovery. Moreover, in light of recent advances in neuroimaging methods to study the functional connectivity among brain regions that form integrated networks, we review TBI studies that use resting-state functional connectivity MRI methodology to examine neural networks disrupted by putative axonal injury. The findings suggest that TBI is associated with altered structural and functional connectivity, characterized by decreased integrity of white matter pathways and imbalance and inefficiency of functional networks. These structural and functional alterations are often associated with neurocognitive dysfunction and poor functional outcomes. TBI has a negative impact on distributed brain networks that lead to behavioral disturbance.
    Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society 11/2015; in press. · 2.96 Impact Factor
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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; 9(3). DOI:10.1007/s11682-015-9444-y · 4.60 Impact Factor
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