Washington: Researchers say that a single concussion can cause lasting structural damage to the brain.
"This is the first study that shows brain areas undergo measureable volume loss after concussion," said Yvonne W. Lui, M.D., Neuroradiology section chief and assistant professor of radiology at NYU Langone School of Medicine. "In some patients, there are structural changes to the brain after a single concussive episode."
Following a concussion, some patients experience a brief loss of consciousness. Other symptoms include headache, dizziness, memory loss, attention deficit, depression and anxiety. Some of these conditions may persist for months or even years.
Dr. Lui and colleagues set out to investigate changes in global and regional brain volume in patients one year after MTBI. Twenty-eight MTBI patients (with 19 followed at one year) with post-traumatic symptoms after injury and 22 matched controls (with 12 followed at one year) were enrolled in the study.
The researchers used three-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine regional gray matter and white matter volumes and correlated these findings with other clinical and cognitive measurements.
The researchers found that at one year after concussion, there was measurable global and regional brain atrophy in the MTBI patients. These findings show that brain atrophy is not exclusive to more severe brain injuries but can occur after a single concussion.
"This means that patients who are symptomatic in the long-term after a concussion may have a biologic underpinning of their symptoms," Lui said.
These volume changes correlated with cognitive changes in memory, attention and anxiety.
The study has been published online in the journal Radiology.