Progressive atrophy and neuron death for one year following brain trauma in the rat

J Neurotrauma. 1997 Oct;14(10):715-27. doi: 10.1089/neu.1997.14.715.


Although atrophic changes have been well described following traumatic brain injury (TBI) in humans, little is known concerning the mechanisms or progression of brain tissue loss. In the present study, we evaluated the temporal profile of histopathological changes following parasagittal fluid-percussion (FP) brain injury in rats over 1 year postinjury. Anesthetized 3-4 month-old Sprague-Dawley Rats (n = 51) were subjected to FP brain injury of high severity (2.5-2.9 atm, n = 51) or sham treatment (n = 27). At 1 h, 2 h, 48 h, 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months, 6 months and 1 year after brain injury or sham treatment, these animals were humanely euthanized. Brain sections were analyzed with image-processing techniques to determine the extent of cortical tissue loss and shrinkage of the hippocampal pyramidal cell layer. In addition, cell counting was performed to determine the number of neurons in the dentate hilus of the hippocampus, and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) immunostaining was used to reveal reactive astrocytosis. Examination of the injured brains revealed substantial and progressive tissue loss with concomitant ventriculomegaly in the hemisphere ipsilateral to injury. The regions with the most notable progressive atrophy included the cortex, hippocampus, thalamus, and septum. Quantitative analysis demonstrated a significantly progressive loss of cortical tissue as well as shrinkage of the hippocampal pyramidal cell layer ipsilateral to injury over 1 year following injury. In addition, reactive astrocytosis in regions of atrophy and progressive bilateral death of neurons in the dentate hilus was observed for 1 year following injury. These results suggest that a chronically progressive degenerative process may be initiated by brain trauma. Thus, there is a temporally broad window within which to introduce novel therapeutic strategies designed to ameliorate the short and long-term consequences of brain trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atrophy
  • Brain Injuries / pathology*
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Death
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Dentate Gyrus / pathology
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Male
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Time Factors