Hippocampal-dependent deficits in learning and memory formation are a prominent feature of traumatic brain injury (TBI); however, the role of the hippocampus in cognitive dysfunction after concussion (mild TBI) is unknown. We therefore investigated functional and structural changes in the swine hippocampus following TBI using a model of head rotational acceleration that closely replicates the biomechanics and neuropathology of closed-head TBI in humans. We examined neurophysiological changes using a novel ex vivo hippocampal slice paradigm with extracellular stimulation and recording in the dentate gyrus and CA1 occurring at 7 days following non-impact inertial TBI in swine. Hippocampal neurophysiology post-injury revealed reduced axonal function, synaptic dysfunction, and regional hyperexcitability at one week following even "mild" injury levels. Moreover, these neurophysiological changes occurred in the apparent absence of intra-hippocampal neuronal or axonal degeneration. Input-output curves demonstrated an elevated excitatory post-synaptic potential (EPSP) output for a given fiber volley input in injured versus sham animals, suggesting a form of homeostatic plasticity that manifested as a compensatory response to decreased axonal function in post-synaptic regions. These data indicate that closed-head rotational acceleration-induced TBI, the common cause of concussion in humans, may induce significant alterations in hippocampal circuitry function that have not resolved at 7 days post-injury. This circuitry dysfunction may underlie some of the post-concussion symptomatology associated with the hippocampus, such as post-traumatic amnesia and ongoing cognitive deficits.
Keywords: axonal pathology; concussion; epileptogenesis; hippocampus; mild TBI; traumatic brain injury.