Researchers at the University of Rochester have been at the forefront of efforts to understand how blows to the head affect the brain, including how concussions alter brain structure. Researchers at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience have found that children who experience even mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) have more emotional and behavioral problems than children who don’t.
“These blows to the head are difficult to study because they largely depend on memory of an injury since not all impacts require a visit to a doctor,” said Daniel Lopez, a Ph.D. epidemiology and first author of the study published today in NeuroImage. “But being able to analyze longitudinal data from a large cohort and ask important questions like this gives us valuable insight into how even mild TBI affects a developing brain.”
The researchers used MRI and behavioral data collected from thousands of children who participated in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. They found that children with mild TBI had a 15% increased risk of emotional or behavioral problems. The risk was highest in children around ten years old. The researchers found that children who received a severe blow to the head but did not meet diagnostic criteria for mild TBI also had an increased risk of these behavioral and emotional problems.
The University of Rochester Medical Center is one of 21 research sites collecting data for the National Institutes of Health’s ABCD study. Since 2017, 340 children from the greater Rochester area have participated in the 10-year study which follows 11,750 children into young adulthood. It examines how biological development, behaviors and experiences impact brain maturation and other aspects of their lives, including academic achievement, social development and overall health.
The researchers hope that future data from the ABCD study will better reveal the impact of these head beatings on mental health and psychiatric problems. “We know that some of the regions of the brain associated with an increased risk of mental health problems are affected during TBI,” said Ed Freedman, Ph.D., associate professor of neuroscience and co-principal investigator of the ABCD study at the University of Rochester. . Freedman also led this study. “With more time and data, we hope to better understand the long-term impact of even mild TBI.”
Additional co-authors include Zachary Christensen, John J. Foxe, Ph.D., Laura Ziemer, and Paige Nicklas, all members of the Frederick J. and Marion A Schindler Cognitive Neurophysiology Laboratory which is part of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the ‘University of Rochester. The research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the UR Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center.
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Material provided by University of Rochester Medical Center. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.