Damage to white matter is linked to worse cognitive outcomes after brain injury

Press release:

A new University of Iowa study challenges the idea that gray matter (the neurons that form the cerebral cortex) is more important than white matter (the myelin covered axons that physically connect neuronal regions) when it comes to cognitive health and function. The findings may help neurologists better predict the long-term effects of strokes and other forms of traumatic brain injury.

“The most unexpected aspect of our findings was that damage to gray matter hubs of the brain that are really interconnected with other regions didn’t really tell us much about how poorly people would do on cognitive tests after brain damage. On the other hand, people with damage to the densest white matter connections did much worse on those tests,” explains Justin Reber, PhD, a UI postdoctoral research fellow in psychology and first author on the study. “This is important because both scientists and clinicians often focus almost exclusively on the role of gray matter. This study is a reminder that connections between brain regions might matter just as much as those regions themselves, if not more so.”

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Bedside EEG test can aid prognosis in unresponsive brain injury patients

Press release:

Assessing the ability of unresponsive patients with severe brain injury to understand what is being said to them could yield important insights into how they might recover, according to new research.

A team at the University of Birmingham has shown that responses to speech can be measured using electroencephalography, a non-invasive technique used to record electrical signals in the brain. The strength of these responses can be used to provide an accurate prognosis that can help clinicians make the most effective treatment decisions.

Significantly the assessments can be made while the patient is still in intensive care and does not require any conscious response from the patient – they do not have to ‘do’ anything.

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