New Scanning Technology Could Pinpoint TBI Injuries and Aid Recovery

By Sandra Basu

WASHINGTON — New technology could allow clinicians to determine precisely what brain functionality has been lost after traumatic brain injury,  according to a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.1

Head injuries can lead to breaks in fiber tracts, cables in the brain that impact function; however, these breaks are not usually viewable through traditional imaging techniques, which makes it difficult for clinicians to know exactly what brain functions have been affected and to predict whether there is long-term damage.

Through clearer images produced by an imaging technique known as high-definition fiber-tracking (HDFT), developed by UPMC, researchers say they have been able to observe and compare the integrity of 40 tracts in the brain, then predict what brain functionality has been lost.

High definition fiber-tracking map of a million brain fibers. Photo courtesy of Walt Schneider Laboratory.

Walter Schneider, PhD, senior scientist at the Learning Research & Development Center and Professor of Psychology, Neurosurgery & Radiology at the University of Pittsburgh and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, compared  the process to an X-ray  for a bone break.

“Nobody talks about mild, severe or moderate bone damage,” Schneider told U.S. Medicine. “I believe that is exactly what would happen with TBI down the line, because we would say, ‘OK, you have taken a hit, how big a hit and on which cables.’”

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