Different types of brain damage caused by concussions can lead to similar symptoms in children, according to research led by McGill University. A new way to study concussion can help develop future treatments.
While most children recover completely after a concussion, some will have persistent symptoms. The findings published in eLife help explain the complex relationships that exist between symptoms and the damage caused by the injury.
The researchers found that certain combinations of brain damage were associated with specific symptoms such as attention deficit disorder. Other symptoms, such as sleep problems, occurred in children with several types of injuries. For example, damage to areas of the brain that are important for controlling sleep and wakefulness can cause sleep problems, as well as damage to brain regions that control mood.
The white matter of the brain has clues
To do this, they investigated how damage to the brain due to concussions affected its structural connection network, known as white matter. They then used statistical modeling techniques to see how these changes related to 19 different symptoms reported by the children or their caregivers.
Analyzing symptoms can promote treatment
“Despite decades of research, no new treatment goals and therapies for concussion have been identified in recent years,” said lead author Guido Guberman, a Vanier Scholar and MDCM candidate at McGill University. “This is probably because brain damage caused by concussions, and the symptoms that result from it, can vary greatly between individuals. In our study, we wanted to explore the relationships that exist between the symptoms of concussions and the nature of the injury. In more detail.”
Guberman and his colleagues analyzed data collected from 306 children, aged nine to 10 years old, who had previously had a concussion. All children participated in the study for cognitive development of the brain in adolescents (ABCD).
“The methods used in our study provide a new way of conceptualizing and studying concussions,” said senior author Maxime Descoteaux, a professor of computer science at the Université de Sherbrooke. “Once our results are validated and better understood, they can be used to explore potential new treatment goals for individual patients. More generally, it would be interesting to see if our methods can also be used to gather new insights into neurological diseases that also cause various symptoms in patients. “