SPECT Helps Evaluate Brain Following Concussions

Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University used SPECT to evaluate two different ways to measure physiological brain activity in traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients with chronic, mild symptoms in an attempt to understand what happens inside the living brain after a concussion, according to a study published in PLOS ONE. The study included 25 cases and 10 controls.

“This is an important study that shows the potential use for cerebral blood flow and dopamine transporter imaging in the evaluation of patients with chronic head injury. Both imaging techniques provide important and distinct information about the effect of TBI on brain function,” says Andrew Newberg, MD, principal investigator of the study and a professor of radiology at Thomas Jefferson University.

The researchers used SPECT to track cerebral blood flow and to measure the neurotransmitter dopamine by tracking the binding of a dopamine transporter tracer.

TBI patients were discovered to have an average of six brain regions with abnormal perfusion, while controls had an average of two abnormal regions (P<0.001). Patients with headaches had lower cerebral blood flow in the right frontal lobe and higher cerebral blood flow in the left parietal lobe compared with patients without headaches. Lower cerebral blood flow in the right temporal lobe correlated with poorer reported physical health. Higher dopamine transporter binding was associated with more depressive symptoms and overall poorer reported mental health. However, there was no clear association between cerebral blood flow and dopamine transporter binding in the patients studied.

Researchers concluded that SPECT imaging of dopamine transporter and cerebral blood flow were useful tools that provide distinct information about brain physiology after TBI.
Source: Thomas Jefferson University