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Concept: Traumatic brain injury

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Background Intracranial-pressure monitoring is considered the standard of care for severe traumatic brain injury and is used frequently, but the efficacy of treatment based on monitoring in improving the outcome has not been rigorously assessed. Methods We conducted a multicenter, controlled trial in which 324 patients 13 years of age or older who had severe traumatic brain injury and were being treated in intensive care units (ICUs) in Bolivia or Ecuador were randomly assigned to one of two specific protocols: guidelines-based management in which a protocol for monitoring intraparenchymal intracranial pressure was used (pressure-monitoring group) or a protocol in which treatment was based on imaging and clinical examination (imaging-clinical examination group). The primary outcome was a composite of survival time, impaired consciousness, and functional status at 3 months and 6 months and neuropsychological status at 6 months; neuropsychological status was assessed by an examiner who was unaware of protocol assignment. This composite measure was based on performance across 21 measures of functional and cognitive status and calculated as a percentile (with 0 indicating the worst performance, and 100 the best performance). Results There was no significant between-group difference in the primary outcome, a composite measure based on percentile performance across 21 measures of functional and cognitive status (score, 56 in the pressure-monitoring group vs. 53 in the imaging-clinical examination group; P=0.49). Six-month mortality was 39% in the pressure-monitoring group and 41% in the imaging-clinical examination group (P=0.60). The median length of stay in the ICU was similar in the two groups (12 days in the pressure-monitoring group and 9 days in the imaging-clinical examination group; P=0.25), although the number of days of brain-specific treatments (e.g., administration of hyperosmolar fluids and the use of hyperventilation) in the ICU was higher in the imaging-clinical examination group than in the pressure-monitoring group (4.8 vs. 3.4, P=0.002). The distribution of serious adverse events was similar in the two groups. Conclusions For patients with severe traumatic brain injury, care focused on maintaining monitored intracranial pressure at 20 mm Hg or less was not shown to be superior to care based on imaging and clinical examination. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01068522 .).

Concepts: Psychology, Clinical trial, Brain, Traumatic brain injury, Intensive care medicine, Intracranial pressure, Adverse event, Intracranial hemorrhage

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Background Whether brain imaging can identify patients who are most likely to benefit from therapies for acute ischemic stroke and whether endovascular thrombectomy improves clinical outcomes in such patients remains unclear. Methods In this study, we randomly assigned patients within 8 hours after the onset of large-vessel, anterior-circulation strokes to undergo mechanical embolectomy (Merci Retriever or Penumbra System) or receive standard care. All patients underwent pretreatment computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging of the brain. Randomization was stratified according to whether the patient had a favorable penumbral pattern (substantial salvageable tissue and small infarct core) or a nonpenumbral pattern (large core or small or absent penumbra). We assessed outcomes using the 90-day modified Rankin scale, ranging from 0 (no symptoms) to 6 (dead). Results Among 118 eligible patients, the mean age was 65.5 years, the mean time to enrollment was 5.5 hours, and 58% had a favorable penumbral pattern. Revascularization in the embolectomy group was achieved in 67% of the patients. Ninety-day mortality was 21%, and the rate of symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage was 4%; neither rate differed across groups. Among all patients, mean scores on the modified Rankin scale did not differ between embolectomy and standard care (3.9 vs. 3.9, P=0.99). Embolectomy was not superior to standard care in patients with either a favorable penumbral pattern (mean score, 3.9 vs. 3.4; P=0.23) or a nonpenumbral pattern (mean score, 4.0 vs. 4.4; P=0.32). In the primary analysis of scores on the 90-day modified Rankin scale, there was no interaction between the pretreatment imaging pattern and treatment assignment (P=0.14). Conclusions A favorable penumbral pattern on neuroimaging did not identify patients who would differentially benefit from endovascular therapy for acute ischemic stroke, nor was embolectomy shown to be superior to standard care. (Funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; MR RESCUE ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00389467 .).

Concepts: Brain, Stroke, Traumatic brain injury, Medical imaging, Magnetic resonance imaging, Modified Rankin Scale, Radiology, Embolism

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In their Perspective, Donald A. Redelmeier and Sheharyar Raza discuss the significance of Seena Fazel and colleagues' longitudinal study of traumatic brain injury (TBI)-associated outcomes.

Concepts: Longitudinal study, Traumatic brain injury, Sociology, Repeated measures design, Concussion

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of disability and mortality in children and young adults worldwide. It remains unclear, however, how TBI in childhood and adolescence is associated with adult mortality, psychiatric morbidity, and social outcomes.

Concepts: Medicine, Longitudinal study, Brain, Traumatic brain injury, Childhood, Coming of age

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Human umbilical tissue-derived cells (hUTC) represent an attractive cell source and a potential technology for neurorestoration and improvement of functional outcomes following stroke. Male Wistar rats were subjected to a transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (tMCAo) and were intravenously administered hUTC (N = 11) or vehicle (N = 10) 48 hrs after stroke. White matter and vascular reorganization was monitored over a 12-week period using MRI and histopathology. MRI results were correlated with neurological functional and histology outcomes to demonstrate that MRI can be a useful tool to measure structural recovery after stroke. MRI revealed a significant reduction in the ventricular volume expansion and improvement in cerebral blood flow (CBF) in the hUTC treated group compared to vehicle treated group. Treatment with hUTC resulted in histological and functional improvements as evidenced by enhanced expression of vWF and synaptophysin, and improved outcomes on behavioral tests. Significant correlations were detected between MRI ventricular volumes and histological lesion volume as well as number of apoptotic cells. A positive correlation was also observed between MRI CBF or cerebral blood volume (CBV) and histological synaptic density. Neurological functional tests were also significantly correlated with MRI ventricular volume and CBV. Our data demonstrated that MRI measurements can detect the effect of hUTC therapy on the brain reorganization and exhibited positive correlation with histological measurements of brain structural changes and functional behavioral tests after stroke. MRI ventricular volumes provided the most sensitive index in monitoring brain remodeling and treatment effects and highly correlated with histological and functional measurements.

Concepts: Medicine, Brain, Blood, Spearman's rank correlation coefficient, Traumatic brain injury, Cerebrum, Correlation and dependence, Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has long been recognized as the leading cause of traumatic death and disability. Tremendous advances in surgical and intensive care unit management of the primary injury, including maintaining adequate oxygenation, controlling intracranial pressure, and ensuring proper cerebral perfusion pressure, have resulted in reduced mortality. However, the secondary injury phase of TBI is a prolonged pathogenic process characterized by neuroinflammation, excitatory amino acids, free radicals, and ion imbalance. There are no approved therapies to directly address these underlying processes. Here, we present a case that was intentionally treated with substantial amounts of omega-3 fatty acids (n-3FA) to provide the nutritional foundation for the brain to begin the healing process following severe TBI. Recent animal research supports the use of n-3FA, and clinical experience suggests that benefits may be possible from substantially and aggressively adding n-3FA to optimize the nutritional foundation of severe TBI patients and must be in place if the brain is to be given the opportunity to repair itself to the best possible extent. Administration early in the course of treatment, in the emergency department or sooner, has the potential to improve outcomes from this potentially devastating public health problem.

Concepts: Nutrition, Fatty acid, Traumatic brain injury, Intracranial pressure, Omega-3 fatty acid, Neurology, Cerebral perfusion pressure, Neurotrauma

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BACKGROUND: Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) secondary to blast exposure is the most common battlefield injury in Southwest Asia. There has been little prospective work in the combat setting to test the efficacy of new countermeasures. The goal of this study was to compare the efficacy of N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) versus placebo on the symptoms associated with blast exposure mTBI in a combat setting. METHODS: This study was a randomized double blind, placebo-controlled study that was conducted on active duty service members at a forward deployed field hospital in Iraq. All symptomatic U.S. service members who were exposed to significant ordnance blast and who met the criteria for mTBI were offered participation in the study and 81 individuals agreed to participate. Individuals underwent a baseline evaluation and then were randomly assigned to receive either N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) or placebo for seven days. Each subject was re-evaluated at 3 and 7 days. Outcome measures were the presence of the following sequelae of mTBI: dizziness, hearing loss, headache, memory loss, sleep disturbances, and neurocognitive dysfunction. The resolution of these symptoms seven days after the blast exposure was the main outcome measure in this study. Logistic regression on the outcome of ‘no day 7 symptoms’ indicated that NAC treatment was significantly better than placebo (OR = 3.6, p = 0.006). Secondary analysis revealed subjects receiving NAC within 24 hours of blast had an 86% chance of symptom resolution with no reported side effects versus 42% for those seen early who received placebo. CONCLUSION: This study, conducted in an active theatre of war, demonstrates that NAC, a safe pharmaceutical countermeasure, has beneficial effects on the severity and resolution of sequelae of blast induced mTBI. This is the first demonstration of an effective short term countermeasure for mTBI. Further work on long term outcomes and the potential use of NAC in civilian mTBI is warranted. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00822263.

Concepts: Brain, Medical terms, Traumatic brain injury, Effectiveness, Term, Post-concussion syndrome, Concussion, BLAST

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Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a non-invasive neuromodulation technique inducing prolonged brain excitability changes and promoting cerebral plasticity, is a promising option for neurorehabilitation. Here, we review progress in research on tDCS and language functions and on the potential role of tDCS in the treatment of post-stroke aphasia. Currently available data suggest that tDCS over language-related brain areas can modulate linguistic abilities in healthy individuals and can improve language performance in patients with aphasia. Whether the results obtained in experimental conditions are functionally important for the quality of life of patients and their caregivers remains unclear. Despite the fact that important variables are yet to be determined, tDCS combined with rehabilitation techniques seems a promising therapeutic option for aphasia.

Concepts: Medicine, Electricity, Electrochemistry, Traumatic brain injury, Linguistics, Alternating current, Transcranial direct current stimulation, Broca's area

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The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease increases in people who have had an ischemic episode. Furthermore, APP expression is increased following ischemic or hypoxic conditions, as is the production of the Aβ peptide. To address the question of why APP and Aβ are increased in hypoxic and ischemic conditions we induced an ischemic episode in APP knockout mice (APP-/-) and BACE1 knockout mice (BACE-/-). We find that both APP-/- and BACE-/- mice have a dramatically increased risk of mortality as a result of cerebral ischemia. Furthermore, APP knockout mice have reduced cerebral blood flow in response to hypoxia, while wild-type mice maintain or increase cerebral blood flow to the same conditions. The transcription factor, serum response factor (SRF), and calcium-binding molecule, calsequestrin, both involved in vascular regulation, are significantly altered in the brains of APP-/- mice compared to wild type controls. These results show that APP regulates cerebral blood flow in response to hypoxia, and that it, and its cleavage fragments, are crucial for rapid adaptation to ischemic conditions.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Gene, Gene expression, Stroke, Traumatic brain injury, Transcription factor, Ischemia, Hypoxia

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We present an efficient approach to discriminate between typical and atypical brains from macroscopic neural dynamics recorded as magnetoencephalograms (MEG). Our approach is based on the fact that spontaneous brain activity can be accurately described with stochastic dynamics, as a multivariate Ornstein-Uhlenbeck process (mOUP). By fitting the data to a mOUP we obtain: 1) the functional connectivity matrix, corresponding to the drift operator, and 2) the traces of background stochastic activity (noise) driving the brain. We applied this method to investigate functional connectivity and background noise in juvenile patients (n = 9) with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and compared them to age-matched juvenile control subjects (n = 10). Our analysis reveals significant alterations in both functional brain connectivity and background noise in ASD patients. The dominant connectivity change in ASD relative to control shows enhanced functional excitation from occipital to frontal areas along a parasagittal axis. Background noise in ASD patients is spatially correlated over wide areas, as opposed to control, where areas driven by correlated noise form smaller patches. An analysis of the spatial complexity reveals that it is significantly lower in ASD subjects. Although the detailed physiological mechanisms underlying these alterations cannot be determined from macroscopic brain recordings, we speculate that enhanced occipital-frontal excitation may result from changes in white matter density in ASD, as suggested in previous studies. We also venture that long-range spatial correlations in the background noise may result from less specificity (or more promiscuity) of thalamo-cortical projections. All the calculations involved in our analysis are highly efficient and outperform other algorithms to discriminate typical and atypical brains with a comparable level of accuracy. Altogether our results demonstrate a promising potential of our approach as an efficient biomarker for altered brain dynamics associated with a cognitive phenotype.

Concepts: Brain, Traumatic brain injury, Human brain, Electroencephalography, Autism, Pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger syndrome, Autism spectrum