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Diffusion tensor imaging reveals white matter injury in a rat model of repetitive blast-induced traumatic brain injury

Evan Calabrese1, Fu Du2, Robert H. Garman3, G. Allan Johnson1, Cory Riccio4, Lawrence Tong4, Joseph B. Long4
1Center for In Vivo Microscopy, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC
2FD NeuroTechnologies, Ellicott City, MD
3Safar Center for Resuscitation Research, University of Pittsburgh, PA
4Blast-Induced Neurotrauma Branch, Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, MD

Journal of Neurotrauma 2014 May 15;31(10):938-50. PMCID: PMC4012630

Blast-induced traumatic brain injury (bTBI) is one of the most common combat related injuries seen in U.S. military personnel, yet relatively little is known about the underlying mechanisms of injury. In particular, the effects of the primary blast pressure wave are poorly understood. Animal models have proven invaluable for the study of primary bTBI, as it rarely occurs in isolation in human subjects. Even less is known about the effects of repeated primary blast wave exposure, but existing data suggests cumulative increases in brain damage with a second blast. MRI, and in particular diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), have become important tools for assessing bTBI in both clinical and preclinical settings. Computational statistical methods like voxelwise analysis have shown promise in localizing and quantifying bTBI throughout the brain. In this study, we use voxelwise analysis of DTI to quantify white matter injury in a rat model of repetitive primary blast exposure. Our results show a significant increase in microstructural damage with a second blast exposure, suggesting that primary bTBI may sensitize the brain to subsequent injury.

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Imaging work was performed at the Duke Center for In Vivo Microscopy, an NIH/NIBIB Biomedical Technology Resource Center (P41 EB015897). We are grateful to Sally Gewalt and James Cook for assistance with the imaging pipelines. We thank Dr. Yi Qi and Gary Cofer for assistance in specimen preparation and scanning.