Whole Brain Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopic Determinants of Functional Outcomes in Pediatric Moderate/Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

Talin Babikian, Jeffry R. Alger, Monica U. Ellis-Blied, Christopher C. Giza, Emily Dennis, Alexander Olsen, Richard Mink, Christopher Babbitt, Jeff Johnson, Paul M. Thompson, Robert F. Asarnow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Diffuse axonal injury contributes to the long-term functional morbidity observed after pediatric moderate/severe traumatic brain injury (msTBI). Whole-brain proton magnetic resonance echo-planar spectroscopic imaging was used to measure the neurometabolite levels in the brain to delineate the course of disruption/repair during the first year post-msTBI. The association between metabolite biomarkers and functional measures (cognitive functioning and corpus callosum [CC] function assessed by interhemispheric transfer time [IHTT] using an event related potential paradigm) was also explored. Pediatric patients with msTBI underwent assessments at two times (post-acutely at a mean of three months post-injury, n = 31, and chronically at a mean of 16 months post-injury, n = 24). Healthy controls also underwent two evaluations, approximately 12 months apart. Post-acutely, in patients with msTBI, there were elevations in choline (Cho; marker for inflammation and/or altered membrane metabolism) in all four brain lobes and the CC and decreases in N-acetylaspartate (NAA; marker for neuronal and axonal integrity) in the CC compared with controls, all of which normalized by the chronic time point. Subgroups of TBI showed variable patterns chronically. Patients with slow IHTT had lower lobar Cho chronically than those with normal IHTT; they also did not show normalization in CC NAA whereas those with normal IHTT showed significantly higher levels of CC NAA relative to controls. In the normal IHTT group only, chronic CC Cho and NAA together explained 70% of the variance in long-term cognitive functioning. MR based whole brain metabolic evaluations show different patterns of neurochemistry after msTBI in two subgroups with different outcomes. There is a dynamic relationship between prolonged inflammatory responses to brain damage, reparative processes/remyelination, and subsequent neurobehavioral outcomes. Multimodal studies allow us to test hypotheses about degenerative and reparative processes in patient groups that have divergent functional outcome, with the ultimate goal of developing targeted therapeutic agents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1637-1645
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number14
StatePublished - 15 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • cognition; MK spectroscopy; neuropsychology; pediatric brain injury


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