Research Updates

Scientists have learned more about the brain — how it works and how it heals — in the last decade or two than ever before. And, there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of research being done specifically on traumatic brain injury (TBI). BrainLine’s Research Update is an ongoing series of short synopses describing the recent research on TBI and links for further information. We created this series to help keep people with brain injuries, families, and other professionals up to date on the latest brain injury research.

Three or more concussions linked with worse brain function in later life

Figures of neurons before and after brain injury

Experiencing three or more concussions is linked with worsened brain function in later life, according to major new research. The study – the largest of its kind - also found having just one moderate-to-severe concussion, or traumatic brain injury (TBI), can have a long-term impact on brain function, including memory.

Newly Discovered Anatomy Shields and Monitors Brain

Illustration of the Subarachnoidal Lymphatic-like Membrane (SLYM) between the brain and skull

The traditional view is that the brain is surrounded by three layers, the dura, arachnoid, and pia mater. Møllgård et al. found a fourth meningeal layer called the subarachnoid lymphatic-like membrane (SLYM). SLYM is immunophenotypically distinct from the other meningeal layers in the human and mouse brain and represents a tight barrier for solutes of more than 3 kilodaltons, effectively subdividing the subarachnoid space into two different compartments. SLYM is the host for a large population of myeloid cells, the number of which increases in response to inflammation and aging, so this layer represents an innate immune niche ideally positioned to surveil the cerebrospinal fluid.

LoveYourBrain Retreats Improve Quality of Life After Brain Injury

LoveYourBrain participants press palm to palm during yoga in tree pose

LoveYourBrain Retreats is a novel, free, five-day multimodal program designed to benefit people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and their caregivers. This study showed the integration of mindfulness, gentle yoga, brain health nutrition, art therapy, and community is an effective rehabilitation model to improve quality of life and has significant potential for expanding access to complementary therapy after TBI.

Treatment Patterns of Anxiety and PTSD Following TBI

Pharmacy shelves of medication

Symptoms of mental disorders are common, are underrecognized, and contribute to worse outcomes after traumatic brain injury (TBI). Post-TBI, prevalence of anxiety disorders and prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are comparable with that of depression, but evidence-based treatment guidelines are lacking. The investigators examined psychotropic medication use and psychotherapy patterns among individuals diagnosed with anxiety disorders and PTSD post-TBI.

PTSD Service Dog Improve Veteran Quality of Life

A veteran's hand holds the paw of a service dog

Meta-analysis (9 articles) revealed that partnership with an assistance dog had a clinically meaningful, significant, and large effect on PTSD severity scores. Increasingly prevalent research on assistance dogs for veterans with PTSD provides support for the impact of this complementary and integrative health intervention on PTSD symptom severity, and signs of meaningful improvements in adjacent domains including mental and social health.

Low Serotonin Levels May Not Cause Depression

Charcoal drawing of a figure standing alone in darkness

The serotonin hypothesis of depression is still influential. Our comprehensive review of the major strands of research on serotonin shows there is no convincing evidence that depression is associated with, or caused by, lower serotonin concentrations or activity.

Even a Mild Concussion Could Cause Long-Term Problems

Female doctor holds a tablet with an image of a brain speaking with a seated male patient

A new study published in Neurology dispels the notion that "mild" concussions have no lasting impact on mental skills like thinking, remembering, and learning. Poor cognitive outcomes are common 1 year after injury.

Insomnia Symptoms Common in First Year Following TBI

Woman lies awake in bed with a clock above her reading 3:06am

What is the natural history of insomnia in the 12 months after traumatic brain injury (TBI)? In the analysis of over 2,000 adults from a large cohort study, insomnia was common during the 12 months after TBI and should be assessed early in recovery.

The Shadow Pandemic: A Qualitative Exploration of the Impacts of COVID-19 on Service Providers and Women Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence and Brain Injury

Woman in foreground with elbows on knees. man on couch in the background.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) affects up to 1 in 3 women over their lifetime and has intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although most injuries are to the head, face, and neck, the intersection of IPV and brain injury (BI) remains largely unrecognized. This article reports on unexplored COVID-19–related impacts on service providers and women survivors of IPV/BI.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A differential diagnostic consideration for COVID-19 survivors

Image of a COVID-19 virion, grey with red coronas

Heightened risk of PTSD occurred in MERS and SARS survivors. While data concerning COVID-19 is lacking, PTSD is known to occur in patient groups who undergo similar hospital courses, including ICU survivors, patients who are intubated and mechanically ventilated, and those that experience delirium. Research with patients who develop PTSD in the context of mild traumatic brain injury further suggests that PTSD may account for some or all of a patient’s subjective cognitive complaints and neuropsychological test performance. Recommendations are provided for assessing PTSD in the context of COVID-19.

Association of Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) With Posttraumatic Psychological Growth Among US Veterans During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Graphic representation of a coronavirus knocking over white walls

Military veterans may be at elevated risk for COVID-19–associated psychiatric issues given high rates of preexisting psychiatric conditions, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicidal ideation (SI). In this survey study, we analyzed data from a national sample of US military veterans to examine (1) the prevalence of COVID-19–associated PTG among veterans with and without COVID-19–associated PTSD symptoms and (2) the incremental association between PTG and SI during the pandemic.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Racial Trauma

PTSD and Racial Trauma, Racism linked to negative mental health conditions

Racial trauma can be defined as the cumulative traumatizing impact of racism on a racialized individual, which can include individual acts of racial discrimination combined with systemic racism, and typically includes historical, cultural, and community trauma as well.

Racism has been linked to a host of negative mental health conditions, but the connection between racial discrimination and PTSD symptoms appears to be the most robust.