Cognitive training reduces depression, rebuilds injured brain structure and connectivity after traumatic brain injury

New research from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas shows that certain cognitive training exercises can help reduce depression and improve brain health in individuals years after they have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The recent study, published in Human Brain Mapping, revealed significant reductions in the severity of depressive symptoms, increased ability to regulate emotions, increases in cortical thickness and recovery from abnormal neural network connectivity after cognitive training.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to report brain change associated with reduced depression symptoms after cognitive training,” said Dr. Kihwan Han, a research scientist at the Center for BrainHealth who works in the lab of Dr. Daniel Krawczyk. Han is the lead author of the study.

Full story at Science Daily

Traumatic brain injuries may be helped with drug used to treat bipolar disorder

A drug used to treat bipolar disorder and other forms of depression may help to preserve brain function and prevent nerve cells from dying in people with a traumatic brain injury, according to a new Rutgers University study.

In research published in Scientific Reports, Rutgers scientists discovered that lithium — used as a mood stabilizer and to treat depression and bipolar disorder — and rapamycin, a treatment for some forms of cancer, protected nerve cells in the brain and stopped the chemical glutamate from sending signals to other cells and creating further brain cell damage.

“Many medications now used for those suffering with traumatic brain injury focus on treating the symptoms and stopping the pain instead of protecting any further damage from occurring,” said lead author Bonnie Firestein, professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “We wanted to find a drug that could protect the cells and keep them from dying.”

Full story of TBI and bipolar drug at Science Daily

Can sertraline prevent depressive disorders following traumatic brain injury?

Depressive disorders are common following traumatic brain injury (TBI). So, can the antidepressant medication sertraline prevent the onset of depressive disorders following TBI?

Ricardo E. Jorge, M.D., of the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, and coauthors tackled that question in a new article published online by JAMA Psychiatry. The authors conducted a randomized clinical trial at a university hospital over four years with 24 weeks of follow-up. A total of 94 patients consented and were assigned to receive placebo (n=46) or sertraline (n=48) at a dose of 100 mg/day for 24 weeks or until a mood disorder developed.

Results suggest sertraline at a low dose early after TBI appears to be an efficacious strategy to prevent depression after TBI but more study is needed before considering possible changes to treatment guidelines.

Full story of preventing the onset of depressive disorders following TBI at Science Daily

Health problems may predict traumatic brain injuries in older adults

Traumatic brain injury (TBI), a leading cause of death and disability, has become so common in recent times that it has been called a “silent epidemic.” And because older adults are more likely to suffer TBI, have worse outcomes, and are less likely to survive their injury than younger adults, older adults are considered a “silent population” within this epidemic.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers set out to learn about the risk factors for TBI in older adults so that healthcare professionals can develop strategies to prevent these types of injuries whenever possible. The current study is believed to be the first to evaluate TBI-associated risk factors in older adults, said the researchers.

The researchers studied participants from the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) study. They looked at 4,004 people without dementia who were 65-years-old and older. None of the participants had sustained a prior TBI when they joined the study. The people were followed every two years for an average of 7.5 years. During each visit, researchers interviewed the participants and asked whether they had had an injury severe enough to cause a loss of consciousness. The researchers also collected other data at each visit, including information on the state of the participant’s health, depression symptoms, alcohol use, and whether or not they were physically active.

Full story of health problems and TBI in older adults at Science Daily

Impact of sleep disturbance on recovery in veterans with PTSD and TBI

Poor sleep may impact treatment and recovery in veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). A review of extensive research on sleep in TBI and PTSD has found that sleep-focused interventions can improve treatment outcomes in veterans.

Led by researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and VA Boston Healthcare System, the review article currently appears online in the journal of Clinical Psychology Review.

Sleep difficulty is a primary symptom of both PTSD and TBI and has been found to affect the severity of both conditions. TBI patients can suffer from permanent sleep problems regardless of the severity of their initial injury. Approximately 40 to 65 percent of individuals have insomnia after mild TBI, while patients with sleep difficulties are at a higher risk of developing PTSD. Despite recent attention, sleep has been understudied in the veteran population.

Full story of sleep disturbance in veterans with PTSD at Science Daily

Self-Harm, Suicide Ideation Tightly Linked in Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans

Non-suicidal self-injury–that is, purposefully hurting oneself without conscious suicidal intent–is relatively common among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, according to a study published online April 1, 2015, in Psychiatry Research. The research, conducted by Dr. Nathan Kimbrel, a research psychologist at the Durham VA Medical Center, included 151 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Of those, 14 percent reported a history of non-suicidal self-injury, or NSSI.

Moreover, the study found that those who deliberately hurt themselves were more likely to engage in suicidal behavior. The researchers hope that NSSI could serve as a marker for identifying which veterans are most likely to attempt suicide.

Full story of self harm and suicide for veterans at Science Daily

Compound protects brain cells after traumatic brain injury

A new class of compounds has now been shown to protect brain cells from the type of damage caused by blast-mediated traumatic brain injury (TBI). Mice that were treated with these compounds 24-36 hours after experiencing TBI from a blast injury were protected from the harmful effects of TBI, including problems with learning, memory, and movement.

Traumatic brain injury caused by blast injury has emerged as a common health problem among U.S. servicemen and women, with an estimated 10 to 20 percent of the more than 2 million U.S. soldiers deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan having experienced TBI. The condition is associated with many neurological complications, including cognitive and motor decline, as well as acquisition of psychiatric symptoms like anxiety and depression, and brain tissue abnormalities that resemble Alzheimer’s disease.

“The lack of neuroprotective treatments for traumatic brain injury is a serious problem in our society,” says Andrew Pieper, senior study author and associate professor of psychiatry, neurology, and radiation oncology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. “Everyone involved in this work is motivated to find a way to offer hope for patients, which today include both military personnel and civilians, by establishing a basis for a new treatment to combat the deleterious neuropsychiatric outcomes after blast injury.”

Full story brain cells and TBI at Science Daily