DTI, computer model may give MDs head-start on brain injury diagnosis

A research team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has designed a tool that may help pinpoint what types of head movements cause concussion-related brain injuries. The research was published in the Jan. 8 edition of the Journal of Neurotrauma.

K.T. Ramesh, PhD, professor of mechanical engineering, and his team paired diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) with a computer model of the head to identify injured axons, or fibers that transmit information between brain cells. The research showed strong rotations of the head tend to injure axons the most easily. The researchers also were able to calculate area of the brain most likely to be injured during a specific event, according to a press release from Johns Hopkins.

“This is the kind of injury that may take weeks to manifest,” Ramesh said in the release. “By the time you assess the symptoms, it may be too late for some kinds of treatment to be helpful. But if you can tell right away what happened to the brain and where the injury is likely to have occurred, you may be able to get a crucial head-start on the treatment.”

The tool could drive sports rule changes, particularly in football and hockey, and help detect axonal damage in patients injured from vehicle accidents and falls in the past. However, additional research, testing and validation is required before the computer model is ready for clinical use.