Brain Injury Research Gets a Boost

bm0y9zmka1m-sean-brown-300x109Vista residents and others throughout Southern California who have suffered significant traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) should know that additional new research is being documented in this area all the time. More precisely, researchers continue to investigate the link between concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). According to a recent press release from University of California, Davis, funding from the Pew Foundation will support new initiatives that will involve research into the biochemistry behind brain trauma. The research is part of a broader initiative to investigate and combat TBIs—including concussions—in both youth and professional sports leagues.

Biochemistry, Hits to the Head, and Traumatic Brain Injury

As the press release discusses, we know that behavioral changes take place in the brain after concussions. What we do not know, however, is precisely how the biochemistry of the brain changes, ultimately leading to those mood shifts. Kassandra Ori-McKenney, an assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology at UC Davis, is researching TBIs and biochemistry. Ori-McKenney won fellowship and is the 2018 Pew biomedical scholar. The funding provides $300,000 over the course of four years, during which time Ori-McKenney “will investigate the role of the protein tau in the development of neurodegeneration resulting from traumatic brain injury.” Thus far, we know that there is a “strong correlation with the expression and spread of tau throughout the brain’s circularity.”

What part of the brain typically suffers long-term damage from sports-related concussions and other bumps or blows to a person’s head? Ori-McKenney argues that the only way to know the answer to that question for certain is to use animals to study micro-binding proteins and head trauma.

Animal Testing to Learn More About Concussions and Other TBIs

What do we know about biochemistry and head injuries? Most importantly, perhaps, when it comes to the relationship between mood changes and biochemistry shifts after a concussion, microtubule aggregation occurs, which ultimately leads to greater neurodegeneration. As we noted above, CTE is a condition that researchers currently believe stems from changes to tau proteins. More precisely, as the press release explains, “in a single neuron, important materials are transported through the cell via roadlike systems called microtubules.” Then, when brains are affected by concussions, “the tau is modified by other proteins,” and “it can dissociate from the microtubule aggregate, and spread from neuron to neuron, setting off a cascade of neurodegeneration.”

Ori-McKenney’s research, for which she won the Pew financial support, involves a research area in which flies are placed in a tube, which repeatedly “clams up against a styrofoam surface, rattling the winded occupants inside it.” After approximately four hours of this, Ori-McKenney has identified “closed-head traumatic brain injury.” Now, she plans to use similar techniques to study the behavior of flies and the relationship between TBI and behavior shifts.

Contact a Vista Brain Injury Lawyer

We still have a lot more to learn about mild traumatic brain injuries like concussions and their effects on human behavior, but more research is being conducted to address these questions. In the meantime, if you or one of your children suffered a brain injury caused by another party’s negligence or wrongdoing, you should speak with a Vista brain injury attorney about your case. Contact the Walton Law Firm to learn more from an advocate.

See Related Blog Posts:

FDA Approves New Blood Test to Detect Concussions

More Than Concussions Cause CTE, New Study Says

(image courtesy of Sean Brown)