Mild traumatic brain injury results in extensive neuronal degeneration in the cerebral cortex

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2011 Mar;70(3):183-91. doi: 10.1097/NEN.0b013e31820c6878.


Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) leads to long-term cognitive and emotional difficulties and behavioral disturbances, but the diagnosis and treatment of mTBI have historically been hampered by a lack of evidence-based correlates of these clinical manifestations. Unlike moderate and severe TBI, mTBI does not show significant tissue lesions or cavities in the cortex. Moreover, neuroimaging by magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography is usually negative, suggesting that the damage is beyond the resolution of current structure-based scanning technologies. Therefore, we investigated the morphologies of spared neurons in the mouse cortex after mTBI in a controlled cortical impact injury model. Our results indicate that, although mTBI caused only a mild extent of cell death, it led to extensive dendrite degeneration and synapse reduction in the cortex in this model. This study sheds light on the neuropathologic consequences of mTBI in humans and suggests that neurodegeneration may be a novel target for developing diagnostic methods and therapeutic approaches for mTBI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Injuries / pathology*
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology
  • Cell Death
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Dendrites / pathology
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology*
  • Synapses / pathology
  • Synapses / ultrastructure