Concussions in children may have underlying causes

Concussions in children may have underlying causes
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New research suggests the different ways brain damage caused by a concussion in children leads to a range of symptoms.

A concussion in children can be traumatic to the brain, causing it to cease proper functionality. It can cause symptoms such as headache, dizziness, changes in mood and trouble remembering.

Different types of brain damage caused by a concussion may lead to similar symptoms in children, a new study published in eLife has discovered.

Lasting symptoms of concussion in children

Most children can fully recover after a head injury; even so, a concussion in children can have lasting symptoms. The researchers set out to answer questions surrounding the complex relationship between concussions in children and the subsequent damage by the injury.

An enhanced understanding of this relationship could revolutionise new treatments that match the needs of individual patients.

“Despite decades of research, no novel treatment targets and therapies for concussions have been identified in recent years,” said first author Guido Guberman, Vanier Scholar and MD CM Candidate at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. “This is likely because damage to the brain caused by concussions, and the symptoms that result from it, can vary widely across individuals. In our study, we wanted to explore the relationships that exist between the symptoms of concussion and the nature of the injury in more detail.”

Exploring concussion symptoms

Guberman and his colleagues analysed diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) data collected from 306 children aged nine to 10 years old who had previously had a concussion. The children were participants in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study.

The team examined how brain damage resulting from concussion in children affected its structural connection network, known as white matter. They utilised statistical modelling techniques to understand how these changes related to 19 different symptoms reported by the children or their caregivers.

They found certain combinations of brain damage were associated with specific symptoms of concussion in children, such as attention difficulties. Other symptoms, including sleep problems, occurred in children with multiple types of injuries. For example, damage to areas of the brain that are essential for controlling sleep and wakefulness could cause challenges with sleeping, as could damage to brain regions that control mood.

“The methods used in our study provide a novel way of conceptualising and studying concussions,” said senior author Maxime Descoteaux, Professor of Computer Science at Université de Sherbrooke, and Chief Science Officer at Imeka Solutions, Quebec, Canada. “Once our results are validated and better understood, they could be used to explore potential new treatment targets for individual patients. More broadly, it would be interesting to see if our methods could also be used to gather new insights on neurological diseases that likewise cause varied symptoms among patients.”

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