Primary Blast Traumatic Brain Injury in the Rat: Relating Diffusion Tensor Imaging and Behavior
Published Version. Frontiers in Neurology, Vol. 4 (October 2013). DOI. © Frontiers S.A. Media 2013. Used with permission.
The incidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among military personnel is at its highest point in U.S. history. Experimental animal models of blast have provided a wealth of insight into blast injury. The mechanisms of neurotrauma caused by blast, however, are still under debate. Specifically, it is unclear whether the blast shockwave in the absence of head motion is sufficient to induce brain trauma. In this study, the consequences of blast injury were investigated in a rat model of primary blast TBI. Animals were exposed to blast shockwaves with peak reflected overpressures of either 100 or 450 kPa (39 and 110 kPa incident pressure, respectively) and subsequently underwent a battery of behavioral tests. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), a promising method to detect blast injury in humans, was performed on fixed brains to detect and visualize the spatial dependence of blast injury. Blast TBI caused significant deficits in memory function as evidenced by the Morris Water Maze, but limited emotional deficits as evidenced by the Open Field Test and Elevated Plus Maze. Fractional anisotropy, a metric derived from DTI, revealed significant brain abnormalities in blast-exposed animals. A significant relationship between memory deficits and brain microstructure was evident in the hippocampus, consistent with its role in memory function. The results provide fundamental insight into the neurological consequences of blast TBI, including the evolution of injury during the sub-acute phase and the spatially dependent pattern of injury. The relationship between memory dysfunction and microstructural brain abnormalities may provide insight into the persistent cognitive difficulties experienced by soldiers exposed to blast neurotrauma and may be important to guide therapeutic and rehabilitative efforts.