"In a traumatic brain injury, it's not one specific area that is affected but multiple areas of the brain connected with axons," Dr. Lipton said.
Using DTI, the researchers measured the uniformity of water flow (called fractional anisotropy or FA) throughout the brain, pinpointing areas with low FA, which are indicative of axonal injury, and areas with abnormally high FA, as compared to healthy brains.
"Abnormally low FA within white matter has been associated with cognitive impairment in patients with TBI," Dr. Lipton said. "We believe that high FA is evidence not of axonal injury, but of brain changes that are occurring in response to the trauma."
One year after their brain injury, the patients completed two standard questionnaires to assess their post-concussion symptoms and evaluate their health status and quality of life.
Comparing the DTI data to the patient questionnaires, the researchers found that the presence of abnormally high FA was a predictor of fewer post-concussion symptoms and higher functioning.
The results suggest that in patients who exhibit areas of high FA on DTI, the brain may be actively compensating for its injuries.
"These results offer us a new opportunity for treatment by finding ways to enhance the brain's compensatory mechanisms," Dr. Lipton said.
Sara B. Rosenbaum
Tova M. Gardin
Richard B. Lipton
, M.D., and
Molly E. Zimmerman
Note: Copies of RSNA 2012 news releases and electronic images will be available online at
Monday, Nov. 26
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