A new application of magnetoencephalography (MEG) recently published in the Journal of Neurosurgery could help predict long-term damage in patients with traumatic brain injury.
The authors of the study, from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), analyzed brain scans using applied rapid automated resting state MEG imaging, which maps brain activity by recording magnetic fields produced by natural electrical currents in the brain. MEG imaging can provide much richer information than a typical MRI scan. Although MEG signals were first measured in 1968, the technology has not been widely used for patients with traumatic brain injury until recently. The researchers discovered that “abnormally decreased functional connectivity”– or possible long-term brain damage– could persist years after a person suffers even a mild form of traumatic brain injury. “We were hoping that areas of abnormal brain activity would match up with some of the functional measures such as patients’ symptoms after injury, and we saw such correlation,” says senior author Pratik Mukherjee In the study, the researchers analyzed brain connectivity data in 21 patients, of whom eleven had mild, one moderate, and three had severe forms of traumatic brain injury. Six patients had no brain injury.
“If you scan someone a couple months after trauma with an MRI, and you scan them again a couple of years after the trauma, it’s going to look the same,” said Mukherjee,. “With MEG, we can characterize simple systems in much more in fine grain detail. It produces the most detailed activity mapping of the brain.”
“Once we have connectivity information, we can create a template of what it looks like in a normal subject. When we have subjects who have had head injuries, we can compare their connectivity pattern to that of the normal subjects using an automated computer algorithm,” This is a preliminary study testing a new technique with a small sample, which makes it difficult to have enough statistical power to make such correlations,” Mukherjee says. “But it is an important step in our quest to help people suffering from traumatic brain injuries.