Using x-ray diffraction, researchers identified patterned neurological changes during brain trauma based specifically on the force applied during the event. The findings may provide insight into what injuries correlate to specific types of damage.
"Our study examines the initial stage of neural damage with a greater sensitivity than previously possible, allowing for the determination of a robust relationship between force and damage," said Ashley Eidsmore, a co-researcher with the Army’s corporate research laboratory, in a statement.
The study, a first-of-its-kind, according to a release from the U.S. Army’s lab, used imaging to analyze alterations in brain myelin—fatty material that wraps around nerve cell projections in the organ. Researchers analyzed the optic nerves of rats that experienced various blunt-forces and pinpointed the exact force during which a change in the myelin structure happened.
The team found small changes, less than a nanometer, consistently occurred at the same small load of force. They also recorded the degree of change in the myelin sheath which indicates the type of change that occurs in head trauma, according to the study.
"Through this research, we've been able to detect specific changes that have never been measured before," said Joseph Orgel, professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, in the same statement. “While more research is needed to develop ways to treat these injuries, identifying the crux of the problem—the impacts that specific forces have on the brain—is an important first step in TBI detection, treatment and prevention."
Researchers from U.S. Army’s RDECOM Research Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois, also contributed to the study. Results were published in the Journal of Synchrotron Radiation.