Patterns of change in cortical morphometry following traumatic brain injury in adults

Hum Brain Mapp. 2022 Apr 15;43(6):1882-1894. doi: 10.1002/hbm.25761. Epub 2021 Dec 24.


Progressive cortical volumetric loss following moderate-severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been observed; however, regionally specific changes in the structural determinants of cortical volume, namely, cortical thickness (CT) and cortical surface area (CSA), are unknown and may inform the patterns and neural substrates of neurodegeneration and plasticity following injury. We aimed to (a) assess differences in CT and CSA between TBI participants and controls in the early chronic stage post-injury, (b) describe longitudinal changes in cortical morphometry following TBI, and (c) examine how regional changes in CT and CSA are associated. We acquired magnetic resonance images for 67 participants with TBI at up to 4 time-points spanning 5 months to 7 years post-injury, and 18 controls at 2 time-points. In the early chronic stage, TBI participants displayed thinner cortices than controls, predominantly in frontal regions, but no CSA differences. Throughout the chronic period, TBI participants showed widespread CT reductions in posterior cingulate/precuneus regions and moderate CT increase in frontal regions. Additionally, CSA showed a significant decrease in the orbitofrontal cortex and circumscribed increase in posterior regions. No changes were identified in controls. Relationships between regional cortical changes in the same morphological measure revealed coordinated patterns within participants, whereas correlations between regions with CT and CSA change yielded bi-directional relationships. This suggests that these measures may be differentially affected by neurodegenerative mechanisms such as transneuronal degeneration following TBI and that degeneration may be localized to the depths of cortical sulci. These findings emphasize the importance of dissecting morphometric contributions to cortical volume change.

Keywords: atrophy; cortical surface area; cortical thickness; longitudinal; traumatic brain injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic* / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic* / pathology
  • Gyrus Cinguli / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology