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Diffuse axonal injury predicts neurodegeneration after moderate–severe traumatic brain injury

Graham, NSN; Jolly, A; Zimmerman, K; Bourke, NJ; Scott, G; Cole, JH; Schott, JM; (2020) Diffuse axonal injury predicts neurodegeneration after moderate–severe traumatic brain injury. Brain 10.1093/brain/awaa316. (In press).

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Abstract

Traumatic brain injury is associated with elevated rates of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. In experimental models, diffuse axonal injury triggers post-traumatic neurodegeneration, with axonal damage leading to Wallerian degeneration and toxic proteinopathies of amyloid and hyperphosphorylated tau. However, in humans the link between diffuse axonal injury and subsequent neurodegeneration has yet to be established. Here we test the hypothesis that the severity and location of diffuse axonal injury predicts the degree of progressive post-traumatic neurodegeneration. We investigated longitudinal changes in 55 patients in the chronic phase after moderate–severe traumatic brain injury and 19 healthy control subjects. Fractional anisotropy was calculated from diffusion tensor imaging as a measure of diffuse axonal injury. Jacobian determinant atrophy rates were calculated from serial volumetric T1 scans as a measure of measure post-traumatic neurodegeneration. We explored a range of potential predictors of longitudinal post-traumatic neurodegeneration and compared the variance in brain atrophy that they explained. Patients showed widespread evidence of diffuse axonal injury, with reductions of fractional anisotropy at baseline and follow-up in large parts of the white matter. No significant changes in fractional anisotropy over time were observed. In contrast, abnormally high rates of brain atrophy were seen in both the grey and white matter. The location and extent of diffuse axonal injury predicted the degree of brain atrophy: fractional anisotropy predicted progressive atrophy in both whole-brain and voxelwise analyses. The strongest relationships were seen in central white matter tracts, including the body of the corpus callosum, which are most commonly affected by diffuse axonal injury. Diffuse axonal injury predicted substantially more variability in white matter atrophy than other putative clinical or imaging measures, including baseline brain volume, age, clinical measures of injury severity and microbleeds (>50% for fractional anisotropy versus <5% for other measures). Grey matter atrophy was not predicted by diffuse axonal injury at baseline. In summary, diffusion MRI measures of diffuse axonal injury are a strong predictor of post-traumatic neurodegeneration. This supports a causal link between axonal injury and the progressive neurodegeneration that is commonly seen after moderate/severe traumatic brain injury but has been of uncertain aetiology. The assessment of diffuse axonal injury with diffusion MRI is likely to improve prognostic accuracy and help identify those at greatest neurodegenerative risk for inclusion in clinical treatment trials.

Type: Article
Title: Diffuse axonal injury predicts neurodegeneration after moderate–severe traumatic brain injury
Location: England
DOI: 10.1093/brain/awaa316
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awaa316
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: DAI, TBI, dementia, head injury
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Neurodegenerative Diseases
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Computer Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10115434
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