Brain can reorganize after traumatic injury

August 02, 2002

Toronto, ONT. -- People who have suffered a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) can recover some of their memory function by using alternate brain networks, according to a new study in the August 2002 issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

TBI, often sustained in traffic accidents, is one of the most common causes of disability in young adults. People with TBI frequently complain of memory problems that interfere with their daily function and ability to work, yet many eventually recover memory function and return to work or school.

The study, led by scientist Brian Levine of The Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, compared brain function in two groups of adults -- six patients who had suffered a moderate to severe TBI four years earlier (with several days of coma in some cases)and made a strong recovery, and 11 healthy adults who matched the TBI group in age and education.

The two groups performed a memory test that involved seeing related word pairs flash on a computer screen (for example, penguin - tuxedo) every few seconds. The subjects were then shown the first word of each pair and asked to recall the second word. While they performed this test, their brain activity was monitored with positron emission tomography.

The important finding in the study came when the research team compared the patterns of brain activity in both groups as they tried to remember the second word. Although the patterns were roughly similar during this memory retrieval task, patients with TBI showed 'larger' areas of activation in frontal and posterior brain regions known to be involved in memory. This was the case even for patients whose performance was the same as the healthy adults. The larger areas reflect 'reorganization' of brain function that likely occurred in the weeks and months during these patients' recovery from their significant brain injury.

The approach used in this study is very different from more widely used clinical measures of brain activity while the patient is in a resting state. These studies tend to emphasize 'reduced' activation in patients with TBI.

The findings of this study by Dr. Levine and his team paint a more hopeful picture by identifying potentially positive brain changes in patients who make a good recovery from TBI. Similar studies have been done in patients with dementia and healthy older adults, but this is the largest and best-controlled study of its kind in patients with significant TBI.

"The brain is a flexible organ that can compensate for damage by engaging new systems to perform the same memory tasks," says Dr. Levine. "A major goal of clinical research is to find new ways of enhancing the recovery process, both through behavioral techniques and with drugs. Brain imaging studies like this one can help to track these changes and to understand why some patients make a good recovery and others do not."
The investigators assisting Dr. Levine included some of the top minds in the field of neuroscience -- Drs. Sandra Black, Donald Stuss, Randy McIntosh, Cheryl Grady and Roberto Cabeza.

The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Ontario Mental Health Foundation, and The Rotman Research Institute.

Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care

Related Memory Articles from Brightsurf:

Memory of the Venus flytrap
In a study to be published in Nature Plants, a graduate student Mr.

Memory protein
When UC Santa Barbara materials scientist Omar Saleh and graduate student Ian Morgan sought to understand the mechanical behaviors of disordered proteins in the lab, they expected that after being stretched, one particular model protein would snap back instantaneously, like a rubber band.

Previously claimed memory boosting font 'Sans Forgetica' does not actually boost memory
It was previously claimed that the font Sans Forgetica could enhance people's memory for information, however researchers from the University of Warwick and the University of Waikato, New Zealand, have found after carrying out numerous experiments that the font does not enhance memory.

Memory boost with just one look
HRL Laboratories, LLC, researchers have published results showing that targeted transcranial electrical stimulation during slow-wave sleep can improve metamemories of specific episodes by 20% after only one viewing of the episode, compared to controls.

VR is not suited to visual memory?!
Toyohashi university of technology researcher and a research team at Tokyo Denki University have found that virtual reality (VR) may interfere with visual memory.

The genetic signature of memory
Despite their importance in memory, the human cortex and subcortex display a distinct collection of 'gene signatures.' The work recently published in eNeuro increases our understanding of how the brain creates memories and identifies potential genes for further investigation.

How long does memory last? For shape memory alloys, the longer the better
Scientists captured live action details of the phase transitions of shape memory alloys, giving them a better idea how to improve their properties for applications.

A NEAT discovery about memory
UAB researchers say over expression of NEAT1, an noncoding RNA, appears to diminish the ability of older brains to form memories.

Molecular memory can be used to increase the memory capacity of hard disks
Researchers at the University of Jyväskylä have taken part in an international British-Finnish-Chinese collaboration where the first molecule capable of remembering the direction of a magnetic above liquid nitrogen temperatures has been prepared and characterized.

Memory transferred between snails
Memories can be transferred between organisms by extracting ribonucleic acid (RNA) from a trained animal and injecting it into an untrained animal, as demonstrated in a study of sea snails published in eNeuro.

Read More: Memory News and Memory Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to