USC Study Finds Possible Way to Tell Which Children Will Recover More Slowly after a TBI
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USC Study Finds Possible Way to Tell Which Children Will Recover More Slowly after a TBI

Tuesday, May 16, 2017By Richard Alexander

Researchers at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine recently did groundbreaking research that identified a significant biomarker to help determine the prognosis for traumatic brain injury (TBI) in children. The research looked at the speed of information transfer between the two sides of the brain.

According to the preliminary study, the normal time of information transfer in TBI patients is between seven and 10 milliseconds. When the transfer time goes beyond 18 milliseconds, the brain cells may already be severely damaged. This indicates that the injured child will have slow recovery or that they may even have permanent brain damage.

This conclusion was drawn after the researchers were able to examine the brain activities of children thoroughly. Twenty-one children who had TBIs and 20 non-injured children were tested to gauge their thinking and memory skills. Then, the researchers studied the MRI brain scans of those children to determine the speed of information transfer.

Here are the two significant findings from the research:

  • half of the injured children had slow transfer time (18 milliseconds or more). The uninjured children had normal transfer times (seven to 10 milliseconds).
  • the slow transfer group had poorer cognitive functions.

The lead researcher, Emily Dennis, explained that the delay in the transfer of information was due to a disruption in the myelin caused by head injuries. Myelin is an insulating sheath that wraps the nerves in the brain. One of its major functions is to facilitate the transmission of information to the different regions of the brain.

Damage to the myelin is made worse in children because their brain structures are not yet mature. So, a hard blow or jolt to their head can be very dangerous. Most cognitive impairment and motor skill disabilities in children resulting from TBI, which are commonly caused by falls or car crashes.

When the damage goes unnoticed and untreated in the early stage, the risk of permanent disability is quite high. As Dennis said, “the problems get worse as these kids age.”

Thus, the study is very essential. It provides a direction in doing an early diagnosis, and identification of patients who are at higher risk. From there, doctors and other medical staff can prioritize high-risk patients to prevent the potential progression of certain debilitating health conditions due to brain damage.

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