Exposure to blast waves is suspected to cause primary traumatic brain injury. However, existing finite-element (FE) models of the rat head lack the necessary fidelity to characterize the biomechanical responses in the brain due to blast exposure. They neglect to represent the cerebral vasculature, which increases brain stiffness, and lack the appropriate brain material properties characteristic of high strain rates observed in blast exposures. To address these limitations, we developed a high-fidelity three-dimensional FE model of a rat head. We explicitly represented the rat's cerebral vasculature and used high-strain-rate material properties of the rat brain. For a range of blast overpressures (100 to 230 kPa) the brain-pressure predictions matched experimental results and largely overlapped with and tracked the incident pressure-time profile. Incorporating the vasculature decreased the average peak strain in the cerebrum, cerebellum, and brainstem by 17, 33, and 18%, respectively. When compared with our model based on rat-brain properties, the use of human-brain properties in the FE model led to a three-fold reduction in the strain predictions. For simulations of blast exposure in rats, our findings suggest that representing cerebral vasculature and species-specific brain properties has a considerable influence in the resulting brain strain but not the pressure predictions.
Keywords: Blast overpressure; High-strain-rate material properties; Rat cerebral vasculature; Shock tube.