Scientists at Georgia Regents University have used laser scanning microscopy to view neurons in brain tissue subjected to mild traumatic brain injury. Observing these cells on the submicroscopic level reveals the mechanics of secondary damage that occur due to falls, accidents, and other actions causing brain injury.
The scientists found that swelling in astrocytes-cells that nourish neurons and normalize their functionality-can suffocate neurons, leading to depolarization and accelerated neuron death.Continuing research will involve determining if the swelling of astrocytes is a protective or destructive response to mild traumatic brain injury. Efforts to understand how secondary damage occurs after brain injury may lead to neuroprotective drugs that minimize this damage.
Sword, J, Matsuda, T, et al. Evolution of neuronal and astroglial disruption in the peri-contusional cortex of mice revealed by in vivo two-photon imaging. Brain. (March 2013).