Single Concussion Can Cause Brain Damage
Biloine W. Young • Mon, April 1st, 2013
In what is bad news for players and fans of contact sports, a new study has found that even a single concussion can cause lasting changes in the structure of the brain—changes that bring about cognitive problems later in life. Melissa Healy, writing for the Los Angeles Times, reported that the brains of athletes who had experienced one mild traumatic injury showed, one year later, shrinkage in the areas of the brain that are key to memory and mood regulation. The study used three-dimensional MRI scanning to compare the brains of injured athletes with those of healthy subjects.
The study is the first to show that just one concussion can leave a measurable scar on the brain. In their study, researchers measured the brain volume of 28 recent victims of concussion and matched them with 22 healthy control subjects. A year later they performed the same scans over again on 19 of the injured patients and on 12 of the non-injured control group. The brains of the concussion victims were found to have atrophied, particularly in the anterior cingulate and the precuneal regions.
Healy noted that, “The anterior cingulate appears to serve as a switchboard for connecting the areas of the brain that are crucial to memory, attention, judgment and higher-order reasoning. Altered activity in the precuneus has been linked to depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
The study’s lead author, Yvonne W. Lui, Chief of Neuroradiology at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, said that the study confirmed what she and her colleagues had long suspected, that after a mild traumatic brain injury, “there is true structural injury to the brain, even though we don’t see much on routine clinical imaging,” The investigators published their study in the journal Radiology in March.