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Neuroimaging in Blast-Related Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Mu, Weiya BA; Catenaccio, Eva BA; Lipton, Michael L. MD, PhD

Section Editor(s): Caplan, Bruce PhD, ABPP; Bogner, Jennifer PhD, ABPP; Brenner, Lisa PhD, ABPP

The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation: January/February 2017 - Volume 32 - Issue 1 - p 55–69
doi: 10.1097/HTR.0000000000000213
Original Articles

Objective: To summarize imaging findings in blast-related mild traumatic brain injury.

Design: Our structured review of the literature yielded 5 structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI), 18 diffusion tensor imaging, 9 functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), 3 positron emission tomography, 4 magnetoencephalography, 2 electroencephalography, and 1 single-positron emission computerized tomography studies.

Results: Four of the 5 sMRI studies reported decreased cortical thickness and decreased thalamus and amygdala volume. Diffusion tensor imaging studies showed abnormal diffusion within white matter tracts commonly associated with traumatic brain injury, including the corpus callosum (8 of the 18) and superior longitudinal fasciculus (8 of the 18). Resting-state fMRI studies reported a variety of functional network differences. Other functional imaging studies showed diffuse changes in activity, especially in the frontal, parietal, temporal, and cingulate regions.

Conclusion: Vast variation in the sample, design, and measurement features across studies precludes salient conclusions regarding the effectiveness of neuroimaging to assess outcomes and elucidate pathomechanisms. The inherent spatial heterogeneity of mild traumatic brain injury pathology presents a major challenge to meaningful convergence across and generalizable inferences. Approaches to standardize methodology and facilitate access to data and integration across studies hold promise for enhancing our understanding of this complex brain disorder, but can only bear fruit if they are actually consistently implemented.

Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York (Mss Mu and Catenaccio and Dr Lipton); Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, New York (Dr Lipton).

Corresponding Author: Michael L. Lipton, MD, PhD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Ave, Bronx, NY 10461 (

The authors thank research librarians Karen Sorensen, MLS, and Rachel Schwartz, MLS, for their assistance in research, and Andrew McClelland, MD, PhD, for his assistance in analysis.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2017 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.