A Healthier Wisconsin

Neurophysiological Effects of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI)

Investigating novel autonomic nervous system mechanisms to help explain mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) symptoms and inform the development of evidence-based rehabilitation programs

Full Project Name:Neurophysiological Effects of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI)Principal Investigator:Lindsay Nelson, PhD, NeurosurgeryCo-Investigator:Hershel Raff, PhD, Medicine, EndocrinologyAward Amount:$200,000
Award Date
Project Duration:24 months

Project Description Narrative:

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a common cause of disability in the U.S., affecting about 2.1 million Americans annually, including over 5,000 Wisconsin residents per year. Over 80% of these are classified as mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI), which often causes impairing symptoms for many patients including physical and mental symptoms that affect daily functioning and life.

There are currently no well-validated treatments for mTBI, leaving many patients uncertain about how to reduce recovery time. The recent discovery that mTBI is associated with changes in cardiovascular measures of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), a system directed by the brain that controls essential body functions, may provide an important target for rehabilitation programs.

This study seeks to investigate the novel ANS mechanisms that may help explain mTBI symptoms and inform the development of evidence-based rehabilitation programs aimed at normalizing this neurophysiological response to activities.

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:

  • Obtained institutional approvals from MCW and Froedtert Hospital to conduct the study
  • Trained staff to use newly purchased physiological recording equipment
  • Tested the study protocol and began patient recruitment, data collection, and data quality assurance activities
  • Met in-person with collaborators at the University of Buffalo to learn how to run the treadmill test and make consensus decisions about the study protocol
  • Applied for and received additional funds from MCW to add additional physiological biomarkers and a limited neuroimaging dataset, which leverages the original investment and enhances the potential benefits of the work

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