A 27-year-old Los Angeles pharmacist has sued the Los Angeles Police Department over injuries she sustained when she was thrown from a moving squad car. The New York Daily News reported that Kim Nguyen says she fell from the car as she struggled to escape sexual assault by a police officer.

“He was grabbing my left inner thigh, trying to — I’m assuming — opening my legs,” she said in her deposition about the incident.

Horrifying surveillance video shows a half-naked Nguyen tumbling from the police car into the street. She was badly injured and only regained consciousness when she emerged from a six-day medically induced coma.

Her injuries included a badly broken jaw, a brain concussion and soft tissue injuries all over her body.

The nightmare began when she and two male friends were waiting for a cab at 2:00 a.m. outside a restaurant in Los Angeles. The trio, Nguyen said, had been drinking.

A squad car pulled up to the curb and officers handcuffed her and bundled her into the back seat, saying she was being arrested for public intoxication. The car pulled away from the curb without either of Nguyen’s companions.

According to Nguyen’s deposition, one officer remained in the back seat of the squad car. He fondled her chest and yanked her head around by the ears before pulling up her skirt and trying to force her legs open.

It was then, she said, that the door behind her abruptly swung open and she was thrown from the vehicle.

Her attorney Arnoldo Cassillas said to KCAL that his client spent two weeks in the hospital with her jaw wired shut. All of her teeth were shattered in the fall and had to be pulled. She is suing for criminal negligence.


Bioengineers Create Functional 3D Brain-like Tissue

Bioengineers have created three-dimensional brain-like tissue that functions like and has structural features similar to tissue in the rat brain and that can be kept alive in the lab for more than two months.

As a first demonstration of its potential, researchers used the brain-like tissue to study chemical and electrical changes that occur immediately following traumatic brain injury and, in a separate experiment, changes that occur in response to a drug. The tissue could provide a superior model for studying normal brain function as well as injury and disease, and could assist in the development of new treatments for brain dysfunction.

The brain-like tissue was developed at the Tissue Engineering Resource Center at Tufts University, Boston, which is funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) to establish innovative biomaterials and tissue engineering models. David Kaplan, Ph.D., Stern Family Professor of Engineering at Tufts University is director of the center and led the research efforts to develop the tissue.

Currently, scientists grow neurons in petri dishes to study their behavior in a controllable environment. Yet neurons grown in two dimensions are unable to replicate the complex structural organization of brain tissue, which consists of segregated regions of grey and white matter. In the brain, grey matter is comprised primarily of neuron cell bodies, while white matter is made up of bundles of axons, which are the projections neurons send out to connect with one another. Because brain injuries and diseases often affect these areas differently, models are needed that exhibit grey and white matter compartmentalization.

Recently, tissue engineers have attempted to grow neurons in 3D gel environments, where they can freely establish connections in all directions. Yet these gel-based tissue models don’t live long and fail to yield robust, tissue-level function. This is because the extracellular environment is a complex matrix in which local signals establish different neighborhoods that encourage distinct cell growth and/or development and function. Simply providing the space for neurons to grow in three dimensions is not sufficient.

Now, in the Aug. 11th early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a group of bioengineers report that they have successfully created functional 3D brain-like tissue that exhibits grey-white matter compartmentalization and can survive in the lab for more than two months.

“This work is an exceptional feat,” said Rosemarie Hunziker, Ph.D., program director of Tissue Engineering at NIBIB. “It combines a deep understand of brain physiology with a large and growing suite of bioengineering tools to create an environment that is both necessary and sufficient to mimic brain function.”

The key to generating the brain-like tissue was the creation of a novel composite structure that consisted of two biomaterials with different physical properties: a spongy scaffold made out of silk protein and a softer, collagen-based gel. The scaffold served as a structure onto which neurons could anchor themselves, and the gel encouraged axons to grow through it.

To achieve grey-white matter compartmentalization, the researchers cut the spongy scaffold into a donut shape and populated it with rat neurons. They then filled the middle of the donut with the collagen-based gel, which subsequently permeated the scaffold. In just a few days, the neurons formed functional networks around the pores of the scaffold, and sent longer axon projections through the center gel to connect with neurons on the opposite side of the donut. The result was a distinct white matter region (containing mostly cellular projections, the axons) formed in the center of the donut that was separate from the surrounding grey matter (where the cell bodies were concentrated).

Over a period of several weeks, the researchers conducted experiments to determine the health and function of the neurons growing in their 3D brain-like tissue and to compare them with neurons grown in a collagen gel-only environment or in a 2D dish. The researchers found that the neurons in the 3D brain-like tissues had higher expression of genes involved in neuron growth and function. In addition, the neurons grown in the 3D brain-like tissue maintained stable metabolic activity for up to five weeks, while the health of neurons grown in the gel-only environment began to deteriorate within 24 hours. In regard to function, neurons in the 3D brain-like tissue exhibited electrical activity and responsiveness that mimic signals seen in the intact brain, including a typical electrophysiological response pattern to a neurotoxin.

Because the 3D brain-like tissue displays physical properties similar to rodent brain tissue, the researchers sought to determine whether they could use it to study traumatic brain injury. To simulate a traumatic brain injury, a weight was dropped onto the brain-like tissue from varying heights. The researchers then recorded changes in the neurons’ electrical and chemical activity, which proved similar to what is ordinarily observed in animal studies of traumatic brain injury.

Kaplan says the ability to study traumatic injury in a tissue model offers advantages over animal studies, in which measurements are delayed while the brain is being dissected and prepared for experiments. “With the system we have, you can essentially track the tissue response to traumatic brain injury in real time,” said Kaplan. “Most importantly, you can also start to track repair and what happens over longer periods of time.”

Kaplan emphasized the importance of the brain-like tissue’s longevity for studying other brain disorders. “The fact that we can maintain this tissue for months in the lab means we can start to look at neurological diseases in ways that you can’t otherwise because you need long timeframes to study some of the key brain diseases,” he said.

Hunziker added, “Good models enable solid hypotheses that can be thoroughly tested. The hope is that use of this model could lead to an acceleration of therapies for brain dysfunction as well as offer a better way to study normal brain physiology.”

Kaplan and his team are looking into how they can make their tissue model more brain-like. In this recent report, the researchers demonstrated that they can modify their donut scaffold so that it consists of six concentric rings, each able to be populated with different types of neurons. Such an arrangement would mimic the six layers of the human brain cortex, in which different types of neurons exist.

As part of the funding agreement for the Tissue Engineering Resource Center, NIBIB requires that new technologies generated at the center be shared with the greater biomedical research community.

“We look forward to building collaborations with other labs that want to build on this tissue model,” said Kaplan.

New Alzheimer’s treatment fully restores memory function

Australian researchers have come up with a non-invasive ultrasound technology that clears the brain of neurotoxic amyloid plaques - structures that are responsible for memory loss and a decline in cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients.

If a person has Alzheimer’s disease, it’s usually the result of a build-up of two types of lesions - amyloid plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles. Amyloid plaques sit between the neurons and end up as dense clusters of beta-amyloid molecules, a sticky type of protein that clumps together and forms plaques.

The team reports fully restoring the memory function of 75 percent of the mice they tested it on, with zero damage to the surrounding brain tissue. They found that the treated mice displayed improved performance in three memory tasks - a maze, a test to get them to recognize new objects, and one to get them to remember the places they should avoid.

The team says they’re planning on starting trials with higher animal models, such as sheep, and hope to get their human trials underway in 2017. (Source)

Brains on Demand

Scientists Succeed in Growing Human Brain Tissue in “Test Tubes”

Complex human brain tissue has been successfully developed in a three-dimensional culture system established in an Austrian laboratory. The method described in the current issue of NATURE allows pluripotent stem cells to develop into cerebral organoids – or “mini brains” – that consist of several discrete brain regions. Instead of using so-called patterning growth factors to achieve this, scientists at the renowned Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW) fine-tuned growth conditions and provided a conducive environment. As a result, intrinsic cues from the stem cells guided the development towards different interdependent brain tissues. Using the “mini brains”, the scientists were also able to model the development of a human neuronal disorder and identify its origin – opening up routes to long hoped-for model systems of the human brain.

The development of the human brain remains one of the greatest mysteries in biology. Derived from a simple tissue, it develops into the most complex natural structure known to man. Studies of the human brain’s development and associated human disorders are extremely difficult, as no scientist has thus far successfully established a three-dimensional culture model of the developing brain as a whole. Now, a research group lead by Dr. Jürgen Knoblich at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IMBA) has changed just that.

Brain Size Matters

Starting with established human embryonic stem cell lines and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, the group identified growth conditions that aided the differentiation of the stem cells into several brain tissues. While using media for neuronal induction and differentiation, the group was able to avoid the use of patterning growth factor conditions, which are usually applied in order to generate specific cell identities from stem cells. Dr. Knoblich explains the new method: “We modified an established approach to generate so-called neuroectoderm, a cell layer from which the nervous system derives. Fragments of this tissue were then maintained in a 3D-culture and embedded in droplets of a specific gel that provided a scaffold for complex tissue growth. In order to enhance nutrient absorption, we later transferred the gel droplets to a spinning bioreactor. Within three to four weeks defined brain regions were formed.”

Already after 15 – 20 days, so-called “cerebral organoids” formed which consisted of continuous tissue (neuroepithelia) surrounding a fluid-filled cavity that was reminiscent of a cerebral ventricle. After 20 – 30 days, defined brain regions, including a cerebral cortex, retina, meninges as well as choroid plexus, developed. After two months, the mini brains reached a maximum size, but they could survive indefinitely (currently up to 10 months) in the spinning bioreactor. Further growth, however, was not achieved, most likely due to the lack of a circulation system and hence a lack of nutrients and oxygen at the core of the mini brains. 

Microcephaly in Mini Brains

The new method also offers great potential for establishing model systems for human brain disorders. Such models are urgently needed, as the commonly used animal models are of considerably lower complexity, and often do not adequately recapitulate the human disease. Knoblich’s group has now demonstrated that the mini brains offer great potential as a human model system by analysing the onset of microcephaly, a human genetic disorder in which brain size is significantly reduced. By generating iPS cells from skin tissue of a microcephaly patient, the scientists were able to grow mini brains affected by this disorder. As expected, the patient derived organoids grew to a lesser size. Further analysis led to a surprising finding: while the neuroepithilial tissue was smaller than in mini brains unaffected by the disorder, increased neuronal outgrowth could be observed. This lead to the hypothesis that, during brain development of patients with microcephaly, the neural differentiation happens prematurely at the expense of stem and progenitor cells which would otherwise contribute to a more pronounced growth in brain size. Further experiments also revealed that a change in the direction in which the stem cells divide might be causal for the disorder.

“In addition to the potential for new insights into the development of human brain disorders, mini brains will also be of great interest to the pharmaceutical and chemical industry,” explains Dr. Madeline A. Lancaster, team member and first author of the publication. “They allow for the testing of therapies against brain defects and other neuronal disorders. Furthermore, they will enable the analysis of the effects that specific chemicals have on brain development.”

Mouse embryonic brain tissue containing neural stem cells

Currently in the United States, there are over 4,500 clinical trails in progress testing the therapeutic benefits of stem cells. Just as Olympic athletes train to specialize in one sport, so too do adult stem cells: They are cells that can specialize to become specific cell types depending on their tissue of origin. In the brain, neural stem cells give rise to neurons and helper cells in the central nervous system. Clinical trials are now underway to either activate the small number of neural stem cells present in our brains or to supply neural stem cells that were cultured in a dish to repair damage due to injury or disease.

Image by Dr. Andrew Woolley and Dr. Aaron Gilmour, University of New South Wales.

(Image caption: MRI scans showing brain damage in the stroke patients before treatment. Source: Stem Cells Translational Medicine.)

Stem cells show promise for stroke in pilot study

A stroke therapy using stem cells extracted from patients’ bone marrow has shown promising results in the first trial of its kind in humans.

Five patients received the treatment in a pilot study conducted by doctors at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and scientists at Imperial College London.

The therapy was found to be safe, and all the patients showed improvements in clinical measures of disability.

The findings are published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine. It is the first UK human trial of a stem cell treatment for acute stroke to be published.

The therapy uses a type of cell called CD34+ cells, a set of stem cells in the bone marrow that give rise to blood cells and blood vessel lining cells. Previous research has shown that treatment using these cells can significantly improve recovery from stroke in animals. Rather than developing into brain cells themselves, the cells are thought to release chemicals that trigger the growth of new brain tissue and new blood vessels in the area damaged by stroke.

The patients were treated within seven days of a severe stroke, in contrast to several other stem cell trials, most of which have treated patients after six months or later. The Imperial researchers believe early treatment may improve the chances of a better recovery.

A bone marrow sample was taken from each patient. The CD34+ cells were isolated from the sample and then infused into an artery that supplies the brain. No previous trial has selectively used CD34+ cells, so early after the stroke, until now.

Although the trial was mainly designed to assess the safety and tolerability of the treatment, the patients all showed improvements in their condition in clinical tests over a six-month follow-up period.

Four out of five patients had the most severe type of stroke: only four per cent of people who experience this kind of stroke are expected to be alive and independent six months later. In the trial, all four of these patients were alive and three were independent after six months.

Dr Soma Banerjee, a lead author and Consultant in Stroke Medicine at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “This study showed that the treatment appears to be safe and that it’s feasible to treat patients early when they might be more likely to benefit. The improvements we saw in these patients are very encouraging, but it’s too early to draw definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of the therapy. We need to do more tests to work out the best dose and timescale for treatment before starting larger trials.”

Over 150,000 people have a stroke in England every year. Survivors can be affected by a wide range of mental and physical symptoms, and many never recover their independence.

Stem cell therapy is seen as an exciting new potential avenue of treatment for stroke, but its exact role is yet to be clearly defined.

Dr Paul Bentley, also a lead author of the study, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, said: “This is the first trial to isolate stem cells from human bone marrow and inject them directly into the damaged brain area using keyhole techniques. Our group are currently looking at new brain scanning techniques to monitor the effects of cells once they have been injected.”

Professor Nagy Habib, Principal Investigator of the study, from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London, said: “These are early but exciting data worth pursuing. Scientific evidence from our lab further supports the clinical findings and our aim is to develop a drug, based on the factors secreted by stem cells, that could be stored in the hospital pharmacy so that it is administered to the patient immediately following the diagnosis of stroke in the emergency room. This may diminish the minimum time to therapy and therefore optimise outcome. Now the hard work starts to raise funds for this exciting research.”

Rat Brain Tissue Sections
Much of what has been learned about the human brain has been discovered from research on the rat brain. Though smaller and less complex than that of humans, the rat brain is extremely useful as a subject of study because most regions of the brain are essentially the same among mammalian species. The rat brain has been heavily employed as an animal model for various neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease. In fact, it was studies of rats that led to the fundamental discovery that the Parkinson’s is caused by the loss of dopamine within the brain. Research with the rodents has also been critical in testing new drug treatments for the disease, as well as investigations of other potential therapeutic approaches, such as gene therapy. 


While serial killer Richard Chase was in custody, detectives searched his apartment. What they found in the putrid-smelling place was disgusting. Nearly everything was bloodstained, including food and drinking glasses. In the kitchen, they found several small pieces of bone, and some dishes in the refrigerator with body parts. One container held human brain tissue. An electric blender was badly stained and smelled of rot.

Reversing Brain Damage

The bad news: We’ve mentioned before that a strain of the Escherichia coli bacteria, called E.coli K1, is able to infect the brain and is one of the leading causes of neonatal meningitis. While antibiotics can help fight off this infection, their side effects in newborns, and the rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, demand other treatment options.

The good news: Prasadarao Nemani, PhD, principal investigator in the Molecular Pathogenesis Research Lab at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and colleagues found that the naturally occurring protein interleukin-10 (IL-10) can remove E.coli K1 from the blood of infected mice. And it reverses the damage to the brain.  

The image above shows the healthy brain of an uninfected mouse at 7 days old.

In an infected mouse, the amount of healthy brain tissue rapidly decreases just four days after E. coli K1 bacteria enter the bloodstream.

Brain morphology returns to normal just two days after an E.coli K1-infected mouse received a small dose of recombinant IL-10. By clearing the infection and restoring brain damage quickly, researchers are hopeful that any long-term effects to the developing brain can be avoided. 

This result provides the basis for studying IL-10 in newborns. Read more about Dr. Nemani’s work with E. coli and other bacterial infections here.


Multimedia Credit: Numira Biosciences, Salt Lake City, UT 

The brain is not as cramped as we thought

To study the fine structure of the brain, including its connections between neurons, the synapses, scientists must use electron microscopes. However, the tissue must first be fixed to prepare it for this high magnification imaging method. This process causes the brain to shrink; as a result, microscope images can be distorted, e.g. showing neurons to be much closer than they actually are. EPFL scientists have now solved the problem by using a technique that rapidly freezes the brain, preserving its true structure. The work is published in eLife.

(Image caption: Computer models of brain tissue: cryo-fixed (purple) and chemically fixed (brown). Credit: © Graham Knott/EPFL)

The shrinking brain

Recent years have seen an upsurge of brain imaging, with renewed interest in techniques like electron microscopy, which allows us to observe and study the architecture of the brain in unprecedented detail. But at the same time, they have also revived old problems associated with how this delicate tissue is prepared before images can be collected.

Typically, the brain is fixed with stabilizing agents, such as aldehydes, and then encased, or embedded, in a resin. However, it has been known since the mid-sixties that this preparation process causes the brain to shrink by at least 30 percent. This in turn, distorts our understanding of the brain’s anatomy, e.g. the actual proximity of neurons, the structures of blood vessels etc.

The freezing brain

A study by Graham Knott at EPFL, led by Natalya Korogod and working with Carl Petersen, has successfully used an innovative method, called “cryofixation”, to prevent brain shrinkage during the preparation for electron microscopy. The method, whose roots go back to 1965, uses jets of liquid nitrogen to “snap-freeze” brain tissue down to -90oC, within milliseconds. The brain tissue here was mouse cerebral cortex.

The rapid freezing method is able to prevent the water in the tissue from forming crystals, as it would do in a regular freezer, by also applying very high pressures. Water crystals can severely damage the tissue by rupturing its cells. But in this high pressure freezing method, the water turns into a kind of glass, preserving the original structures and architecture of the tissue.

The next step is to embed the frozen tissue in resin. This requires removing the glass-water and replacing it first with acetone, which is still a liquid at the low temperatures of cryofixation, and then, over a period of days, with resin; allowing it to slowly and gently push out the glassified water from the brain.

The real brain

After the brain was cryofixed and embedded, it was observed and photographed in using 3D electron microscopy. The researchers then compared the cryofixed brain images to those taken from a brain fixed with an “only chemical” method.

The analysis showed that the chemically fixed brain was much smaller in volume, showing a significant loss of extracellular space – the space around neurons. In addition, supporting brain cells called “astrocytes”, seemed to be less connected with neurons and even blood vessels in the brain. And finally, the connections between neurons, the synapses, seemed significantly weaker in the chemically-fixed brain compared to the cryofixed one.

The researchers then compared their measurements of the brain to those calculated in functional studies – studies that measure the time it takes for a molecule to travel across that brain region. To the researchers’ surprise, the data matched, adding even more evidence that cryofixation preserves the real anatomy of the brain.

“All this shows us that high-pressure cryofixation is a very attractive method for brain imaging,” says Graham Knott. “At the same time, it challenges previous imaging efforts, which we might have to re-examine in light of new evidence.” His team is now aiming to use cryofixation on other parts of the brain and even other types of tissue.

Urbex: West Park Moruary and Histopathology

Human brain tissue samples left behind.

Abandoned Morgue

(Image caption: Areas of the brain affected by aging (in red) are fewer and less widespread in people who meditate, bottom row, than in people who don’t meditate. Credit: Dr. Eileen Luders)

Forever young: Meditation might slow the age-related loss of gray matter in the brain

Since 1970, life expectancy around the world has risen dramatically, with people living more than 10 years longer. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that starting when people are in their mid-to-late-20s, the brain begins to wither — its volume and weight begin to decrease. As this occurs, the brain can begin to lose some of its functional abilities.

So although people might be living longer, the years they gain often come with increased risks for mental illness and neurodegenerative disease. Fortunately, a new study shows meditation could be one way to minimize those risks.

Building on their earlier work that suggested people who meditate have less age-related atrophy in the brain’s white matter, a new study by UCLA researchers found that meditation appeared to help preserve the brain’s gray matter, the tissue that contains neurons.

The scientists looked specifically at the association between age and gray matter. They compared 50 people who had mediated for years and 50 who didn’t. People in both groups showed a loss of gray matter as they aged. But the researchers found among those who meditated, the volume of gray matter did not decline as much as it did among those who didn’t.

The article appears in the current online edition of the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Dr. Florian Kurth, a co-author of the study and postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA Brain Mapping Center, said the researchers were surprised by the magnitude of the difference.

“We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating,” he said. “Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”

As baby boomers have aged and the elderly population has grown, the incidence of cognitive decline and dementia has increased substantially as the brain ages.

“In that light, it seems essential that longer life expectancies do not come at the cost of a reduced quality of life,” said Dr. Eileen Luders, first author and assistant professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “While much research has focused on identifying factors that increase the risk of mental illness and neurodegenerative decline, relatively less attention has been turned to approaches aimed at enhancing cerebral health.”

Each group in the study was made up of 28 men and 22 women ranging in age from 24 to 77. Those who meditated had been doing so for four to 46 years, with an average of 20 years.

The participants’ brains were scanned using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging. Although the researchers found a negative correlation between gray matter and age in both groups of people — suggesting a loss of brain tissue with increasing age — they also found that large parts of the gray matter in the brains of those who meditated seemed to be better preserved, Kurth said.

The researchers cautioned that they cannot draw a direct, causal connection between meditation and preserving gray matter in the brain. Too many other factors may come into play, including lifestyle choices, personality traits, and genetic brain differences.

“Still, our results are promising,” Luders said. “Hopefully they will stimulate other studies exploring the potential of meditation to better preserve our aging brains and minds. Accumulating scientific evidence that meditation has brain-altering capabilities might ultimately allow for an effective translation from research to practice, not only in the framework of healthy aging but also pathological aging.”

it was cheaper to use niggers than cats, because they were everywhere and cheap experimental animals
—  harry bailey, m.d., 1977, on his medical experiments involving the involuntary, nonconsensual removal of brain tissue from black boys at tulane university
This new smart scalpel can automatically locate cancerous tumours in the brain
Precision cuts, thanks to science.
By David Nield

There’s little room for error when it comes to removing brain tumours, which is why a new ‘smart scalpel’ developed by a researcher in Belgium is looking so promising: it enables surgeons to distinguish between cancerous and healthy tissue in the brain in a matter of seconds.

It’s not actually a scalpel as such: it’s more of a pen-style scanner, with a spherical tip less than 1 millimetre across. By passing the device across the surface of the brain, doctors can detect exactly where the tumour is and remove it more accurately. So far, it’s only been tested on artificial tumours and brain tissue from pigs, but the results are impressive enough to suggest that it could be adapted for use on humans too.

Right now, neurosurgeons are relying on very close observations and tissue manipulation tools, both of which have their own limitations.

(Image caption: Tissue samples of blast TBI brain injuries (right) compared to non-blast TBI samples indicate the presence of a distinctive pattern of scarring, as reported online in Lancet Neurology, June 9, 2016. Credit: Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences)

‘Invisible Wounds of War’ Now Visible

Scientists have discovered a unique pattern of scarring in the brains of deceased service members who were exposed to blast injury that differs from those exposed to other types of head injury. This new research was published online June 9 in Lancet Neurology, “Characterisation of Interface Astroglial Scarring in the Human Brain after Blast Exposure: a Post-mortem Case Series.”

“Our findings revealed those with blast exposure showed a distinct and previously unseen pattern of scarring, which involved the portion of brain tissue immediately beneath the superficial lining of the cerebral cortex – the junction between the gray and white matter – and the vital structures that are adjacent to the cavities within the brain that are filled with cerebrospinal fluid. Those areas of the brain, damaged by blast, suggest that they may be correlated with the symptoms displayed by those who sustained a traumatic brain injury, or TBI,” said Dr. Daniel Perl, study senior author and professor of Neuropathology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. “This scarring pattern also suggests the brain has attempted to repair brain damage from a blast injury.”

To better understand these blast brain injuries, researchers from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), the Department of Defense Joint Pathology Center and the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine, examined brain tissue specimens derived from deceased service members, who had been exposed to a high explosive blast injury and had suffered several persistent symptoms. The researchers examined the brain tissues from five service members with remote blast exposures, as well as brain tissues of three service members who died shortly after severe blast exposures. They also compared these results with brain tissues from civilian (non-military) cases, including five with remote impact TBIs, and three cases with no history of a TBI.

“This changes the earlier paradigm of ‘battle injury’ and demonstrates unique and specific biological changes in brains due to these injuries,” said Perl, who also serves as director of USU’s Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine TBI Brain Tissue Repository.
Military members sustaining a TBI have often reported suffering from persistent post-concussive symptoms, which include a mixture of both neurologic and behavioral disturbances.  

“These can include problems such as headaches, difficulty concentrating, sleep disorders, memory problems, depression and anxiety. Despite these prominent symptoms, conventional neuroimaging for mild TBIs typically has not allowed providers to “see” brain abnormalities, leading this to be considered the “invisible wound,” said Perl.  

“This publication sheds some light, for the first time, into the nature of the persistent behavioral/ neurologic issues being reported in numerous service members who have been exposed to high explosives. It will certainly stimulate important further research and change how we think about these problems. DoD, through the Military Health System, is at the cutting edge of research dedicated to caring for our troops, and I hope that these findings will point the way into devising more rational approaches to their diagnosis, prevention and treatment,” Perl said.