The world needs a better MRI when it comes to finding and treating the damage that traumatic brain injury does to the brain’s inner wiring.
That destruction to the brain’s axons, its nerve fibers, is essentially not visible with traditional MRIs, which diagnose bleeding and swelling of the brain. The axons form a path or network for messages to travel in the brain.
But researchers have finally developed a more accurate, sensitive MRI that does detect damage to the brain’s nerve-fiber pathways, according to a recent story by the Associated Press. The article was about a report that was published by the Journal of Neurosurgery about high-definition fiber tracking.
“The new scan processes high-powered MRIs through a special computer program to map major fiber tracts, painting then them in vivid greens, yellows and purples that designate their different functions,” AP wrote. “Researchers look for breaks in the fibers that could slow, or even stop, those nerve connections from doing their assigned job.”
The research and development of the new MRI is being done by Walter Schneider of the University of Pittsburgh.
The state-of-the-art MRI could help end the frustration of patients who are still suffering symptoms of concussion, such as headaches and memory loss, only to have their MRI’s say that they are OK.
One of the TBI patients that’s being tested with the new MRI is a Pennsylvania man who was in a coma for three months after an auto crash, according to AP. That man couldn’t move his left leg, arm or hand when he finally did wake up.
But using the HD fiber tracking, doctors found damage to nerves controlling the patient’s limbs, and he has regained use in several of them.
There is other research being conducted on upgrading MRIs to make them more accurate, and useful, in the treatment of TBI. But this high-definition fiber tracking sounds especially promising.
Original source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/healthbeat-researchers-aim-to-find-the-invisible-damage-traumatic-brain-injury-leaves-behind/2012/03/01/gIQAnYj5kR_story.html