Neuroimmune activation is associated with neurological outcome in anoxic and traumatic coma

Brain. 2024 Apr 4;147(4):1321-1330. doi: 10.1093/brain/awae045.


The pathophysiological underpinnings of critically disrupted brain connectomes resulting in coma are poorly understood. Inflammation is potentially an important but still undervalued factor. Here, we present a first-in-human prospective study using the 18-kDa translocator protein (TSPO) radioligand 18F-DPA714 for PET imaging to allow in vivo neuroimmune activation quantification in patients with coma (n = 17) following either anoxia or traumatic brain injuries in comparison with age- and sex-matched controls. Our findings yielded novel evidence of an early inflammatory component predominantly located within key cortical and subcortical brain structures that are putatively implicated in consciousness emergence and maintenance after severe brain injury (i.e. mesocircuit and frontoparietal networks). We observed that traumatic and anoxic patients with coma have distinct neuroimmune activation profiles, both in terms of intensity and spatial distribution. Finally, we demonstrated that both the total amount and specific distribution of PET-measurable neuroinflammation within the brain mesocircuit were associated with the patient's recovery potential. We suggest that our results can be developed for use both as a new neuroprognostication tool and as a promising biometric to guide future clinical trials targeting glial activity very early after severe brain injury.

Keywords: TSPO PET scan; brain anoxia; disorders of consciousness; mesocircuit; neuroimmune activation; prognosis; traumatic brain injury.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain Injuries* / complications
  • Coma / complications
  • Coma, Post-Head Injury* / complications
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / complications
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Receptors, GABA / metabolism


  • TSPO protein, human
  • Receptors, GABA