Whether suffered on a highway, worksite or on the battlefield, traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs not just by impact but when force exerted on the brain shakes and shears the very connective tissue of the brain itself. New research offers insights into the organizational habits of the brain after suffering an accident severe enough to leave its victim comatose.
In a recent article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), researchers compared MRI data from 17 brain-injured patients in a comatose state with data from 20 healthy volunteers. Data from both sets of subjects was compared at 417 points in the brain to create meaningful statistical correlations.
From this study, it was observed that severely damaged brains continue to process information in an organized way, like healthy brains, through large and small-world networks coordinated by hubs throughout the brain.
The surprising finding was the tendency of the damaged brain to radically reorganize its information centers, or hubs. Regions of the brain typically associated with intense signal processing in a healthy subject were relocated in the damaged brain to lesser used cortical areas.
Researchers wonder if this topological shift in anatomical location of hubs may provide clues to the unconscious state of a comatose patient and offer diagnostic information on the ability of a patient to recover after the terrain of their brain has been radically remapped.
Every brain injury is serious. With time, research like this may lead to information or novel treatments that better assist individuals and families deal with this catastrophic injury. Legal help to pursue fair compensation is also essential when a loved one suffers a TBI through the negligence or recklessness of someone else.