Repetitive mild traumatic brain injury in mice triggers a slowly developing cascade of long-term and persistent behavioral deficits and pathological changes

Acta Neuropathol Commun. 2021 Apr 6;9(1):60. doi: 10.1186/s40478-021-01161-2.


We have previously reported long-term changes in the brains of non-concussed varsity rugby players using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and functional magnetic imaging (fMRI). Others have reported cognitive deficits in contact sport athletes that have not met the diagnostic criteria for concussion. These results suggest that repetitive mild traumatic brain injuries (rmTBIs) that are not severe enough to meet the diagnostic threshold for concussion, produce long-term consequences. We sought to characterize the neuroimaging, cognitive, pathological and metabolomic changes in a mouse model of rmTBI. Using a closed-skull model of mTBI that when scaled to human leads to rotational and linear accelerations far below what has been reported for sports concussion athletes, we found that 5 daily mTBIs triggered two temporally distinct types of pathological changes. First, during the first days and weeks after injury, the rmTBI produced diffuse axonal injury, a transient inflammatory response and changes in diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) that resolved with time. Second, the rmTBI led to pathological changes that were evident months after the injury including: changes in magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), altered levels of synaptic proteins, behavioural deficits in attention and spatial memory, accumulations of pathologically phosphorylated tau, altered blood metabolomic profiles and white matter ultrastructural abnormalities. These results indicate that exceedingly mild rmTBI, in mice, triggers processes with pathological consequences observable months after the initial injury.

Keywords: 5-Choice serial reaction time test; Concussion; Experimental brain injury; Magnetic resonance imaging; Metabolomics; Tauopathy; Traumatic encephalopathy; White matter pathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Concussion / pathology*
  • Brain Concussion / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL