New Way to Detect Brain Damage from BGU
December 4, 2014
The Media Line — Football has come under increased scrutiny following findings that the contact sport has been causing serious brain trauma in players. Now, a team of BGU researchers has developed a method for detecting damage to the brain much earlier than previously thought.
“This is an important study, it gives us the opportunity for the first time to be able to look at a functional change in the brain and individuals who’ve had concussions or sub-concussive head injuries,” says Dr. Lee Goldstein, associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine.
“We know that these injuries are occurring… but at the moment we don’t have an easy or meaningful way to diagnose these injuries in individuals, and this is a technique that may allow us to do that.”
After nearly a decade of research, Prof. Alon Friedman and his team of researchers at BGU’s Brain Imaging Research Center has developed a contrast-enhanced MRI that is able to identify significant damage to the blood vessels of the brain much earlier than was previously possible.
“We developed the study following basic research in animals which showed that the blood-brain barrier can break down after trauma or strokes, which can lead to complications,” says Prof. Friedman. “Following these studies we decided it was crucial to develop ways to measure leakage in blood vessels.”
Prof. Friedman explains that the study focused on football players because they have been known to suffer complications from injuries to the head, including depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Brain injuries are also common among soldiers which contributes to many neurological and psychological symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“It’s important to understand that most of the time we don’t see the pathologies early enough. We have no objective measure of when they should go back to play, if at all,” says Prof. Friedman.
“When the damage appears in the exams it’s too late. What we are trying to create is a test that can detect very early on the brain pathologies, at a stage where we hope it can still be reversed,” he adds.
The new detection method is also applicable to other types of diseases, unrelated to brain injuries sustained in contact sports. A certain percentage of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia also suffer from the same brain pathologies that the new MRI detects. This can lead to earlier detection and treatment of these degenerative diseases.