Diffuse axonal injury (DAI), is the stretching and shearing of white matter in multiple areas of the brain, and can be difficult to assess using traditional imaging such as CT or MRI. Motor dysfunction, including problems with balance, dexterity, reflexes, speed and coordination, is a common disability in pediatric traumatic brain injury. However, since traditional CT and MRI scans do not usually show signs of DAI, there has not been a strong link between DAI and motor dysfunction.
Recently, a group of pediatric traumatic brain injury patients with motor dysfunction were scanned using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which is able to show evidence of DAI. White matter injury seen in the DTI scans was significantly associated with greater motor dysfunction.
As DTI becomes more frequently used, it can become a useful tool not only to show more specific damage, but also to help predict recovery and focus intervention for motor dysfunction.
Caeyenberghs K, Leemans A, Geruts M, et al. Correlations between white matter integrity and motor function in traumatic brain injury patients. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. (August 2011).