29th Mar 2017
Childhood head injury can sometimes evolve into life-long development challenges. A new study says that may be because TBIs suffered in youth cause structural changes to a key part of the brain.
For many kids, childhood head injury is a part of growing up. Whether from falls, sports injuries, or car accidents, thousands of children face moderate to severe TBIs every year.
Even after the head injury, it can be hard for healthcare providers to predict whether a child will bounce back or suffer ongoing developmental delays and challenges. For some child TBI victims, the head injury is only the start of serious cognitive impairment that develops with the child as he or she grows up.
Brain injury experts know that prompt treatment is essential to slow and reverse the damage caused by a closed head injury or other TBI. But when young children are injured, it is sometimes hard to know whether his or her limited performance is due to age or injury.
Childhood Head Injury Tests Focus on Corpus Callosum
To address this, Emily L. Dennis, Ph.D., and her team from the University of Southern California (USC) did a study comparing 21 victims of childhood head injury (ages 8-18) to healthy counterparts (of similar age and development). Subjects’s were scanned using a diffusion-weighted MRI 2-5 months after the injury, and again 12 months later. Researchers also administered reasoning and memory tests and asked the children to complete a pattern-matching task while being monitored using an electroencephalogram (EEG). That test focused on the time it took for children’s brains to transfer information from one hemisphere.
The white matter that connects the two hemispheres is called the corpus callosum. It is made up of fatty tissue called myelin that insulates the nerves and facilitates the transfer of electrical impulses. In healthy children, the development of myelin, called myelination, continues even beyond age 30.
Biomarkers Predict Disruptive Brain Injury
When the researchers looked at the data, they found that half of the TBI group had a slower transfer between hemispheres than their healthy counterparts. The other half did not. A review of the subjects’ brain scans showed the ones performing slowly had disruptions in the corpus callosum. 12 months later, those disruptions had worsened. Dennis explains:
“The TBI slow-transfer time group showed progressive decline during this period, while the other group showed signs of recovery.”
Problems with the corpus callosum can cause serious cognitive impairment, including problems with reasoning and processing information. As the white matter degrades, childhood head injury victims may have a harder time recovering from a TBI. The hope is that by detecting these structural changes in the brain early on, aggressive treatments can be used to change the course of TBI recovery.
David Christensen is a brain injury attorney at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He helps TBI victims get no-fault benefits and third party damages after a car accident. If your child has suffered a head injury, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.