Concussion symptoms in children can have several underlying causes. While most will fully recover from a shock to the head, some will have lasting symptoms. However, are there multiple concussion archetypes, and if so, what are their differences and similarities? A more nuanced understanding would allow treatments to be refined according to the needs of each patient. A recent study, published in eLife by Pr Maxime Descoteaux, helps explain the complex relationships that exist between symptoms and injury damage.
Are there different types of concussions? The answer to this question is important because it offers a fundamentally different way of conceptualizing concussions. Brain damage caused by pediatric concussions can result in different sets of symptoms. Also, different types of brain damage from a concussion can lead to similar symptoms in children. This complexity can go unnoticed with conventional survey approaches.
Despite decades of research, no new therapeutic targets or treatments for concussions have been identified in recent years.
Guido Guberman, first author of the scientific paper, Vanier scholar, candidate for MDCM at McGill University and student of the Pr Maxime Descoteaux
Brain damage caused by concussions and the resulting symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. The study further explores the relationship between concussion symptoms and the nature of the injury.
For that, the Dr Guberman and his colleagues analyzed diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) data collected from 306 children, ages nine to 10, who had previously suffered a concussion. The children were all participants in the ABCD (Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development) study.
The team looked at how brain damage from a concussion affects the network of structural connections, known as the white matter.
Using advanced statistical modeling techniques, the research team saw how the changes were related to 19 different symptoms reported by the children or their caregivers.
They found that certain combinations of brain white matter connection abnormalities were associated with specific symptoms, such as attention difficulties. Other symptoms, such as sleep disturbances, have occurred in children with various types of white matter abnormalities. For example, damage to areas of the brain essential for controlling sleep and wakefulness can lead to sleep problems, as can damage to areas of the brain that control mood.
The neuroinformatics methods used in our study offer a new way to conceptualize and study concussions, explains lead author Maxime Descoteaux, professor in the Department of Computer Science at UdeS and Scientific Director of Imeka Solutions. Once our results are validated and better understood, they can be used to explore new potential treatment targets for individual patients. More broadly, it would be interesting to see if our methods could also be used to gather new information about neurological diseases that also cause varying symptoms in patients.