Researchers at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute at Auckland University have received $150,000 from the Health Research Council for a project aiming to transform the understanding, predictability and, ultimately, prevention of the long-term impact of traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Team lead Dr Vickie Shim said diagnosis and research of New Zealand’s 12,600 annual cases of concussion/mild severity TBI are complicated because there is often no known relationship between the location or extent of the injuries and subsequent symptoms. “We don’t know why some recover quickly while others go on to experience long-term consequences,” she said.
Using state-of-the-art imaging and modelling technologies, the Auckland research team will simulate brain disruptions to establish a link between structural damage and cognitive impairments. They will also measure head impacts and analyse the brain changes of high-school rugby players using advanced MRI and brain models. These will be correlated with cognitive symptom measurements to characterise how patients’ brain structure and function change over time. “When combined, this will have the potential to transform brain injury research and analysis by identifying pathways that cause severe cognitive impairments and the mechanisms that drive such detrimental changes,” said Dr Shim. The project is also set to deliver one of the most comprehensive mild TBI datasets in New Zealand to support further brain injury research.