The 2017 Society for Neuroscience Annual Conference

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) held its annual conference this year in Washington, DC. SfN conferences are regularly attended by more than 20,000 participants who represent the brightest minds in basic, translational, and clinical neuroscience. Attendees from around the world come together to discuss the incredible scientific advances that researchers, clinicians, and scientists have achieved in recent years. Many researchers currently focus on the study of traumatic brain injury (TBI), as it continues to grow as a public health concern worldwide. Although recent scientific exploration has yielded great improvement in our understanding of head injuries, there still exist significant gaps in our clinical knowledge of the mechanisms, symptoms, and treatment of TBI. Accordingly, TBI research has been at the forefront of medical research and was powerfully represented during the SfN 2017 conference. A number of attendees presented a comprehensive array of TBI topics – from physical mechanisms to innovative clinical treatments – that captured the scope of ongoing research in this field. Below are highlights of some of the exciting new TBI-related findings that were presented at this year’s conference.

Disease Mechanisms

Many researchers are exploring the relationship between physical brain damage after TBI and the negative outcomes that are often associated with brain injury. To determine if the consequences of TBI can be directly linked to structural damage, Unson et al used MRI images to assess the volume of the channels that carry spinal fluid in the brain (referred to as ventricular volume) in children with TBI and found that ventricular volume correlated with injury severity. Consistent with this finding, Gullicksen and Davenport found that the ratio of ventricular volume to overall brain volume correlated with symptom severity in adult service members with TBI. When clinicians improve their knowledge of structural brain damage as a result of TBI, they can guide research toward more effective treatment methods.

Sex Differences in TBI

Recent studies have suggested that males and females experience TBI differently. Guay et al explored differences in self-perceived personality traits between males and females following TBI. They found that, when compared to non-concussed controls, males were more likely to experience impaired perception of their own emotions. In animal models, males and females also respond differently to treatment. Bleimeister et al investigated the effects of a drug called haloperidol, which is used in the emergency room to treat TBI-induced agitation. They found that haloperidol may negatively impact recovery of motor function in males, but may not have the same effect in females. The results of these studies not only inform the ways TBI is treated in clinical settings, but they also help us understand disease mechanism and encourage the consideration of sex in the treatment of other neurological diseases.

Consequences of TBI

Changes in mood and cognition are among the most common post-concussive symptoms reported by TBI patients. When Chiang et al explored the cognitive effects of TBI in a two-year longitudinal follow-up study of 440 patients, they found that depression and anxiety improved after two years, while sleep quality worsened. This result is critical in directing long-term management of TBI, allowing clinicians to tailor treatment plans along the entire recovery period. Like cognitive deficits, memory impairments are another common cognitive consequence of TBI. Lee et al presented evidence that impaired memory may be attributable to changes in the structure of the hippocampus, the structure in the brain that is responsible for learning and memory. This study sheds light on the mechanism of one of the most pervasive, disruptive consequences of TBI. Finally, in an attempt to understand the changes in neural networks that are associated with emotional and cognitive consequences of TBI, Shapner et al performed functional brain imaging in patients with TBI and found reduced network connectivity in the parts of the brain that regulate emotions. These findings all provide insight into the most common long-term post concussive symptoms, and may guide the course of TBI recovery toward more informed, targeted treatments and therapeutic options.

Innovations in Treatment of TBI-related conditions

Epilepsy is a common consequence of TBI, and several researchers presented new findings on ways to prevent and treat seizures following brain injury. Many of these studies focused on reducing the excitability and activity of neurons. Using a mouse model of blunt-force trauma TBI, Hobbs et al showed that a drug that acts on ion channels that move potassium into neurons could reduce the likelihood of developing epilepsy. Dulla et al focused instead on a drug that reduced glutamate signaling in neurons, which could provide another method for managing the mechanism by which brain cells increase their activity. Together, these studies suggest that neuronal activity is altered following TBI, and that reducing activity can mediate negative outcomes like post-injury seizures.

References:

M. B. Unson, M. Brown, J. J. Wisco, E. Bigler, N. Munc. Ventricular volume changes as a result of severe TBI in pediatric patients. Program No. 216.06. 2017 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience, 2017. Online.

J. T. Gullickson, N. D. Davenport. Effects of cognitive reserve on post-deployment neurodegeneration and symptomatology. Program No. 216.10. 2017 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience, 2017. Online.

S. Guay, E. Léveillé, C. Beaulieu, L. De Beaumont. Sex-related differences in self-reported personality traits in varsity concussed athletes. Program number 216.14. 2017 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience, 2017. Online.

I. H. Bleimeister, K. E. Free, A. M. Greene, H. L. Radabaugh, P. B. De La Tremblaye, C. O. Bondi, N. Lajud, A. E. Kline. Comparable impediment of cognitive function in female and male rats subsequent to daily administration of haloperidol after traumatic brain injury. Program No. 217.01. 2017 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience, 2017. Online.

Y.-H. Chiang, K.-Y. Chen, J.-C. Ou, C.-J. Hu, K.-H. Liao, C.-C. Wu. Psychometric evaluation in anxiety, depression and sleep quality after a mild traumatic brain injury: A 2 year follow-up study. Program No. 216.11. 2017 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience, 2017. Online.

Y. Lee, M. E. Kandel, S. Joung, I. Uzcanga, J. De Jesus Astacio, C. Best. Murine cell and layer-specific distribution abnormalities in the hippocampus following trauma. Program No. 675.02. 2017 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience, 2017. Online.

M. Shapner, A. Thomas, K. Freeman, M. R. Naylor. Affective network in acute mild traumatic brain injury. Program No. 216.09. 2017 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience, 2017. Online.

M. Hobbs, F. A. Borges-Vigil, E. Bozdemir, R. J. Veraza V. Bugay, L. Espinoza, D. M. Holstein, S. M. Sprague, I. Sanchez, J. Carvazos, S. H. Chun, R. Brenner, J. Lechleiter, M. S. Shapiro. Novel drugs that augment KCNQ (Kv7,"M-type") potassium channels as a post-event treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury. Program No. 376.08. Neuroscience Meeting Planner. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience, 2017. Online.

C. G. Dulla, D. Cantu, J. Koenig. Glycolytic inhibition with 2-deoxyglucose attenuates epileptiform activity following traumatic brain injury. Program No. 385.06. 2017 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience, 2017. Online.

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