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URMC / Labs / Bazarian Lab / Lab Foci / Effects of Concussion and Repetitive Head Hits on Brain Structure and Function


Effects of Concussion and Repetitive Head Hits on Brain Structure and Function

DTI brain scan

Because the clinical diagnosis of concussion, which relies on symptom self-report, is considered unreliable, an alternative reference standard for this injury is needed. This is a fundamental problem for researchers trying to determine the epidemiology and natural history of concussion, as well as for clinicians attempting to accurately diagnose and manage those with an injury. The Bazarian lab has developed diffusion tensor imaging as a reference standard for clinically significant axonal injury after concussion. This has allowed us to determine the value of blood-based biomarkers—such as S100B, tau, GFAP and UCH-L1-- which are ultimately more practical and economical. 

What emerged from these research efforts was the startling finding that a head hit could cause brain injury without producing concussive symptoms. This is a particular problem for contact sports like football where repetitive sub-concussive head hits are a routine occurrence. At the same time, research from other labs revealed that repetitive head hits were a risk factor for the development of accelerated neurocognitive decline, depression, and even early-onset neurodegeneration (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). This has led many researchers in the field to shift their focus from concussion to repetitive head hits as an emerging threat to neurologic health. The Bazarian lab is exploring the effects of repetitive head hits on multiple aspects of brain structure and function.

Brain Structure

  • Blood based biomarkers: Neuronal/astrocyte proteins (S100B, GFAP, UCH-L1, tau, NFL), cytokines, autoantibodies, mRNA expression, metabolites, DNA methylation
  • Neuroimaging: DTI, fMRI

Brain Function

  • Quantitative EEG
  • Computerized eye tracking
  • Computerized cognitive testing
  • Posturography


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