Disruption of the ascending arousal network in acute traumatic disorders of consciousness. Neurology 2019;93(13):e1281-e1287.Abstract.
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether ascending arousal network (AAn) connectivity is reduced in patients presenting with traumatic coma. METHODS: We performed high-angular-resolution diffusion imaging in 16 patients with acute severe traumatic brain injury who were comatose on admission and in 16 matched controls. We used probabilistic tractography to measure the connectivity probability (CP) of AAn axonal pathways linking the brainstem tegmentum to the hypothalamus, thalamus, and basal forebrain. To assess the spatial specificity of CP differences between patients and controls, we also measured CP within 4 subcortical pathways outside the AAn. RESULTS: Compared to controls, patients showed a reduction in AAn pathways connecting the brainstem tegmentum to a region of interest encompassing the hypothalamus, thalamus, and basal forebrain. When each pathway was examined individually, brainstem-hypothalamus and brainstem-thalamus CPs, but not brainstem-forebrain CP, were significantly reduced in patients. Only 1 subcortical pathway outside the AAn showed reduced CP in patients. CONCLUSIONS: We provide initial evidence for the reduced integrity of axonal pathways linking the brainstem tegmentum to the hypothalamus and thalamus in patients presenting with traumatic coma. Our findings support current conceptual models of coma as being caused by subcortical AAn injury. AAn connectivity mapping provides an opportunity to advance the study of human coma and consciousness.
Traumatic Microbleeds in the Hippocampus and Corpus Callosum Predict Duration of Posttraumatic Amnesia. J Head Trauma Rehabil 2019;34(6):E10-E18.Abstract.
OBJECTIVE: Radiologic predictors of posttraumatic amnesia (PTA) duration are lacking. We hypothesized that the number and distribution of traumatic microbleeds (TMBs) detected by gradient recalled echo (GRE) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) predicts PTA duration. SETTING: Academic, tertiary medical center. PARTICIPANTS: Adults with traumatic brain injury (TBI). DESIGN: We identified 65 TBI patients with acute GRE MRI. PTA duration was determined with the Galveston Orientation and Amnesia Test, Orientation Log, or chart review. TMBs were identified within memory regions (hippocampus, corpus callosum, fornix, thalamus, and temporal lobe) and control regions (internal capsule and global). Regression tree analysis was performed to identify radiologic predictors of PTA duration, controlling for clinical PTA predictors. MAIN MEASURES: TMB distribution, PTA duration. RESULTS: Sixteen patients (25%) had complicated mild, 4 (6%) had moderate, and 45 (69%) had severe TBI. Median PTA duration was 43 days (range, 0-240 days). In univariate analysis, PTA duration correlated with TMBs in the corpus callosum (R = 0.29, P = .02) and admission Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score (R = -0.34, P = .01). In multivariate regression analysis, admission GCS score was the only significant contributor to PTA duration. However, in regression tree analysis, hippocampal TMBs, callosal TMBs, age, and admission GCS score explained 26% of PTA duration variance and distinguished a subgroup with prolonged PTA. CONCLUSIONS: Hippocampal and callosal TMBs are potential radiologic predictors of PTA duration.
Functional networks reemerge during recovery of consciousness after acute severe traumatic brain injury. Cortex 2018;106:299-308.Abstract.
Integrity of the default mode network (DMN) is believed to be essential for human consciousness. However, the effects of acute severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) on DMN functional connectivity are poorly understood. Furthermore, the temporal dynamics of DMN reemergence during recovery of consciousness have not been studied longitudinally in patients with acute severe TBI. We performed resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) to measure DMN connectivity in 17 patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) with acute severe TBI and in 16 healthy control subjects. Eight patients returned for follow-up rs-fMRI and behavioral assessment six months post-injury. At each time point, we analyzed DMN connectivity by measuring intra-network correlations (i.e. positive correlations between DMN nodes) and inter-network anticorrelations (i.e. negative correlations between the DMN and other resting-state networks). All patients were comatose upon arrival to the ICU and had a disorder of consciousness (DoC) at the time of acute rs-fMRI (9.2 ± 4.6 days post-injury): 2 coma, 4 unresponsive wakefulness syndrome, 7 minimally conscious state, and 4 post-traumatic confusional state. We found that, while DMN anticorrelations were absent in patients with acute DoC, patients who recovered from coma to a minimally conscious or confusional state while in the ICU showed partially preserved DMN correlations. Patients who remained in coma or unresponsive wakefulness syndrome in the ICU showed no DMN correlations. All eight patients assessed longitudinally recovered beyond the confusional state by 6 months post-injury and showed normal DMN correlations and anticorrelations, indistinguishable from those of healthy subjects. Collectively, these findings suggest that recovery of consciousness after acute severe TBI is associated with partial preservation of DMN correlations in the ICU, followed by long-term normalization of DMN correlations and anticorrelations. Both intra-network DMN correlations and inter-network DMN anticorrelations may be necessary for full recovery of consciousness after acute severe TBI.
Advanced neuroimaging in traumatic brain injury. Semin Neurol 2012;32(4):374-400.Abstract.
Advances in structural and functional neuroimaging have occurred at a rapid pace over the past two decades. Novel techniques for measuring cerebral blood flow, metabolism, white matter connectivity, and neural network activation have great potential to improve the accuracy of diagnosis and prognosis for patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI), while also providing biomarkers to guide the development of new therapies. Several of these advanced imaging modalities are currently being implemented into clinical practice, whereas others require further development and validation. Ultimately, for advanced neuroimaging techniques to reach their full potential and improve clinical care for the many civilians and military personnel affected by TBI, it is critical for clinicians to understand the applications and methodological limitations of each technique. In this review, we examine recent advances in structural and functional neuroimaging and the potential applications of these techniques to the clinical care of patients with TBI. We also discuss pitfalls and confounders that should be considered when interpreting data from each technique. Finally, given the vast amounts of advanced imaging data that will soon be available to clinicians, we discuss strategies for optimizing data integration, visualization, and interpretation.
Functional MRI and outcome in traumatic coma. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep 2013;13(9):375.Abstract.
Advances in task-based functional MRI (fMRI), resting-state fMRI (rs-fMRI), and arterial spin labeling (ASL) perfusion MRI have occurred at a rapid pace in recent years. These techniques for measuring brain function have great potential to improve the accuracy of prognostication for civilian and military patients with traumatic coma. In addition, fMRI, rs-fMRI, and ASL perfusion MRI have provided novel insights into the pathophysiology of traumatic disorders of consciousness, as well as the mechanisms of recovery from coma. However, functional neuroimaging techniques have yet to achieve widespread clinical use as prognostic tests for patients with traumatic coma. Rather, a broad spectrum of methodological hurdles currently limits the feasibility of clinical implementation. In this review, we discuss the basic principles of fMRI, rs-fMRI, and ASL perfusion MRI and their potential applications as prognostic tools for patients with traumatic coma. We also discuss future strategies for overcoming the current barriers to clinical implementation.
Disconnection of the ascending arousal system in traumatic coma. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol 2013;72(6):505-23.Abstract.
Traumatic coma is associated with disruption of axonal pathways throughout the brain, but the specific pathways involved in humans are incompletely understood. In this study, we used high angular resolution diffusion imaging to map the connectivity of axonal pathways that mediate the 2 critical components of consciousness-arousal and awareness-in the postmortem brain of a 62-year-old woman with acute traumatic coma and in 2 control brains. High angular resolution diffusion imaging tractography guided tissue sampling in the neuropathologic analysis. High angular resolution diffusion imaging tractography demonstrated complete disruption of white matter pathways connecting brainstem arousal nuclei to the basal forebrain and thalamic intralaminar and reticular nuclei. In contrast, hemispheric arousal pathways connecting the thalamus and basal forebrain to the cerebral cortex were only partially disrupted, as were the cortical "awareness pathways." Neuropathologic examination, which used β-amyloid precursor protein and fractin immunomarkers, revealed axonal injury in the white matter of the brainstem and cerebral hemispheres that corresponded to sites of high angular resolution diffusion imaging tract disruption. Axonal injury was also present within the gray matter of the hypothalamus, thalamus, basal forebrain, and cerebral cortex. We propose that traumatic coma may be a subcortical disconnection syndrome related to the disconnection of specific brainstem arousal nuclei from the thalamus and basal forebrain.
Neuroanatomic connectivity of the human ascending arousal system critical to consciousness and its disorders. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol 2012;71(6):531-46.Abstract.
The ascending reticular activating system (ARAS) mediates arousal, an essential component of human consciousness. Lesions of the ARAS cause coma, the most severe disorder of consciousness. Because of current methodological limitations, including of postmortem tissue analysis, the neuroanatomic connectivity of the human ARAS is poorly understood. We applied the advanced imaging technique of high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) to elucidate the structural connectivity of the ARAS in 3 adult human brains, 2 of which were imaged postmortem. High angular resolution diffusion imaging tractography identified the ARAS connectivity previously described in animals and also revealed novel human pathways connecting the brainstem to the thalamus, the hypothalamus, and the basal forebrain. Each pathway contained different distributions of fiber tracts from known neurotransmitter-specific ARAS nuclei in the brainstem. The histologically guided tractography findings reported here provide initial evidence for human-specific pathways of the ARAS. The unique composition of neurotransmitter-specific fiber tracts within each ARAS pathway suggests structural specializations that subserve the different functional characteristics of human arousal. This ARAS connectivity analysis provides proof of principle that HARDI tractography may affect the study of human consciousness and its disorders, including in neuropathologic studies of patients dying in coma and the persistent vegetative state.
Diffusion tensor imaging in acute-to-subacute traumatic brain injury: a longitudinal analysis. BMC Neurol 2016;16:2.Abstract.
BACKGROUND: Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) may have prognostic utility in patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI), but the optimal timing of DTI data acquisition is unknown because of dynamic changes in white matter water diffusion during the acute and subacute stages of TBI. We aimed to characterize the direction and magnitude of early longitudinal changes in white matter fractional anisotropy (FA) and to determine whether acute or subacute FA values correlate more reliably with functional outcomes after TBI. METHODS: From a prospective TBI outcomes database, 11 patients who underwent acute (≤7 days) and subacute (8 days to rehabilitation discharge) DTI were retrospectively analyzed. Longitudinal changes in FA were measured in 11 white matter regions susceptible to traumatic axonal injury. Correlations were assessed between acute FA, subacute FA and the disability rating scale (DRS) score, which was ascertained at discharge from inpatient rehabilitation. RESULTS: FA declined from the acute-to-subacute period in the genu of the corpus callosum (0.70 ± 0.02 vs. 0.55 ± 0.11, p < 0.05) and inferior longitudinal fasciculus (0.54+/-0.07 vs. 0.49+/-0.07, p < 0.01). Acute correlations between FA and DRS score were variable: higher FA in the body (R = -0.78, p = 0.02) and splenium (R = -0.83, p = 0.003) of the corpus callosum was associated with better outcomes (i.e. lower DRS scores), whereas higher FA in the genu of the corpus callosum (R = 0.83, p = 0.02) corresponded with worse outcomes (i.e. higher DRS scores). In contrast, in the subacute period higher FA in the splenium correlated with better outcomes (R = -0.63, p < 0.05) and no inverse correlations were observed. CONCLUSIONS: White matter FA declined during the acute-to-subacute stages of TBI. Variability in acute FA correlations with outcome suggests that the optimal timing of DTI for TBI prognostication may be in the subacute period.
Unexpected recovery of function after severe traumatic brain injury: the limits of early neuroimaging-based outcome prediction. Neurocrit Care 2013;19(3):364-75.Abstract.
BACKGROUND: Prognostication in the early stage of traumatic coma is a common challenge in the neuro-intensive care unit. We report the unexpected recovery of functional milestones (i.e., consciousness, communication, and community reintegration) in a 19-year-old man who sustained a severe traumatic brain injury. The early magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings, at the time, suggested a poor prognosis. METHODS: During the first year of the patient's recovery, MRI with diffusion tensor imaging and T2*-weighted imaging was performed on day 8 (coma), day 44 (minimally conscious state), day 198 (post-traumatic confusional state), and day 366 (community reintegration). Mean apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) and fractional anisotropy values in the corpus callosum, cerebral hemispheric white matter, and thalamus were compared with clinical assessments using the Disability Rating Scale (DRS). RESULTS: Extensive diffusion restriction in the corpus callosum and bihemispheric white matter was observed on day 8, with ADC values in a range typically associated with neurotoxic injury (230-400 × 10(-6 )mm(2)/s). T2*-weighted MRI revealed widespread hemorrhagic axonal injury in the cerebral hemispheres, corpus callosum, and brainstem. Despite the presence of severe axonal injury on early MRI, the patient regained the ability to communicate and perform activities of daily living independently at 1 year post-injury (DRS = 8). CONCLUSIONS: MRI data should be interpreted with caution when prognosticating for patients in traumatic coma. Recovery of consciousness and community reintegration are possible even when extensive traumatic axonal injury is demonstrated by early MRI.
Multimodal Characterization of the Late Effects of Traumatic Brain Injury: A Methodological Overview of the Late Effects of Traumatic Brain Injury Project. J Neurotrauma 2018;35(14):1604-1619.Abstract.
Epidemiological studies suggest that a single moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) is associated with an increased risk of neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's disease (PD). Histopathological studies describe complex neurodegenerative pathologies in individuals exposed to single moderate-to-severe TBI or repetitive mild TBI, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). However, the clinicopathological links between TBI and post-traumatic neurodegenerative diseases such as AD, PD, and CTE remain poorly understood. Here, we describe the methodology of the Late Effects of TBI (LETBI) study, whose goals are to characterize chronic post-traumatic neuropathology and to identify in vivo biomarkers of post-traumatic neurodegeneration. LETBI participants undergo extensive clinical evaluation using National Institutes of Health TBI Common Data Elements, proteomic and genomic analysis, structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and prospective consent for brain donation. Selected brain specimens undergo ultra-high resolution ex vivo MRI and histopathological evaluation including whole-mount analysis. Co-registration of ex vivo and in vivo MRI data enables identification of ex vivo lesions that were present during life. In vivo signatures of postmortem pathology are then correlated with cognitive and behavioral data to characterize the clinical phenotype(s) associated with pathological brain lesions. We illustrate the study methods and demonstrate proof of concept for this approach by reporting results from the first LETBI participant, who despite the presence of multiple in vivo and ex vivo pathoanatomic lesions had normal cognition and was functionally independent until her mid-80s. The LETBI project represents a multidisciplinary effort to characterize post-traumatic neuropathology and identify in vivo signatures of postmortem pathology in a prospective study.