A research report from the University of Texas Medical School, just published in Frontiers in Neurology, finds a correlation between Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) findings and cognitive assessments in patients with chronic complaints after concussion, providing evidence that DTI imaging may be a reliable biomarker predicting the severity of cognitive decline following concussion. (DTI is an MRI technique that detects microstructural changes in white matter such as the changes that can occur as a result of “diffuse axonal injury” in brain injuries including concussion.)
The researchers analyzed data from the records of 53 patients complaining of persistent cognitive symptoms following concussion. The average time from the last concussion was approximately 2.8 years. The cognitive abilities of these patients was assessed using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA). Patients who performed poorly on this assessment also exhibited abnormal DTI findings, particularly in the right frontotemporal region of the brain – the region associated with the memory, attention and visuospatial functions most commonly affected by TBI.
The primary limitation of this study is that the structural changes measured by DTI can be caused by other cognitive risk factors such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes. However many of the patients in the study were young and lacked these risk factors, and still had the changes noted on DTI imaging.
This is an important report advancing the use of DTI imaging in clinical practice.