Neuropathological changes in a lamb model of non-accidental head injury (the shaken baby syndrome)

J Clin Neurosci. 2012 Aug;19(8):1159-64. doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2011.12.019. Epub 2012 Jun 15.


Non-accidental head injury (NAHI), also termed the "shaken baby syndrome", is a major cause of death and severe neurological dysfunction in children under three years of age, but it is debated whether shaking alone is sufficient to produce brain injury and mortality or whether an additional head impact is required. In an attempt to resolve this question, we used a lamb model of NAHI since these animals have a relatively large gyrencephalic brain and weak neck muscles resembling those of a human infant. Three anaesthetised lambs of lower body weight than others in the experimental group died unexpectedly after being shaken, proving that shaking alone can be lethal. In these lambs, axonal injury, neuronal reaction and albumin extravasation were widely distributed in the hemispheric white matter, brainstem and at the craniocervical junction, and of much greater magnitude than in higher body weight lambs which did not die. Moreover, in the eyes of these shaken lambs, there was damage to retinal inner nuclear layer neurons, mild, patchy ganglion cell axonal injury, widespread Muller glial reaction, and uveal albumin extravasation. This study proved that shaking of a subset of lambs can result in death, without an additional head impact being required.

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain / pathology
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Retina / pathology
  • Shaken Baby Syndrome / pathology*
  • Shaken Baby Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Sheep


  • AIF1 protein, human
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Microfilament Proteins