Spatial patterns of progressive brain volume loss after moderate-severe traumatic brain injury

Brain. 2018 Mar 1;141(3):822-836. doi: 10.1093/brain/awx354.


Traumatic brain injury leads to significant loss of brain volume, which continues into the chronic stage. This can be sensitively measured using volumetric analysis of MRI. Here we: (i) investigated longitudinal patterns of brain atrophy; (ii) tested whether atrophy is greatest in sulcal cortical regions; and (iii) showed how atrophy could be used to power intervention trials aimed at slowing neurodegeneration. In 61 patients with moderate-severe traumatic brain injury (mean age = 41.55 years ± 12.77) and 32 healthy controls (mean age = 34.22 years ± 10.29), cross-sectional and longitudinal (1-year follow-up) brain structure was assessed using voxel-based morphometry on T1-weighted scans. Longitudinal brain volume changes were characterized using a novel neuroimaging analysis pipeline that generates a Jacobian determinant metric, reflecting spatial warping between baseline and follow-up scans. Jacobian determinant values were summarized regionally and compared with clinical and neuropsychological measures. Patients with traumatic brain injury showed lower grey and white matter volume in multiple brain regions compared to controls at baseline. Atrophy over 1 year was pronounced following traumatic brain injury. Patients with traumatic brain injury lost a mean (± standard deviation) of 1.55% ± 2.19 of grey matter volume per year, 1.49% ± 2.20 of white matter volume or 1.51% ± 1.60 of whole brain volume. Healthy controls lost 0.55% ± 1.13 of grey matter volume and gained 0.26% ± 1.11 of white matter volume; equating to a 0.22% ± 0.83 reduction in whole brain volume. Atrophy was greatest in white matter, where the majority (84%) of regions were affected. This effect was independent of and substantially greater than that of ageing. Increased atrophy was also seen in cortical sulci compared to gyri. There was no relationship between atrophy and time since injury or age at baseline. Atrophy rates were related to memory performance at the end of the follow-up period, as well as to changes in memory performance, prior to multiple comparison correction. In conclusion, traumatic brain injury results in progressive loss of brain tissue volume, which continues for many years post-injury. Atrophy is most prominent in the white matter, but is also more pronounced in cortical sulci compared to gyri. These findings suggest the Jacobian determinant provides a method of quantifying brain atrophy following a traumatic brain injury and is informative in determining the long-term neurodegenerative effects after injury. Power calculations indicate that Jacobian determinant images are an efficient surrogate marker in clinical trials of neuroprotective therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / pathology*
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / physiopathology*
  • Disease Progression*
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroimaging
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • Young Adult