The University of Newcastle
Research Field: Neurotrauma
Concussion is a complex, transient disturbance to the brain induced by biomechanical forces. These forces initiate a neuropathophysiological cascade involving inflammatory, metabolic, neuronal, and axonal abnormalities. Currently there are no reliable markers that indicate when the brain is no longer in this state of increased cerebral vulnerability. Although a single concussion rarely has lasting effects, there is increasing evidence that repeated concussions are associated with cumulative and chronic neurological impairments, including the possible development of dementia.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy has been postulated as a neurodegenerative condition induced by repetitive concussive and subconcussive blows and has been associated with debilitating clinical symptoms and neuropathological features that encompass brain atrophy, axonal injury, proteopathies, and inflammation. Dr Gardner’s research investigates the longterm effects of sports concussion in retired professional rugby league players with considerable histories of sports concussion, using MRI and neuropsychological assessment. These studies have found evidence of structural brain damage (increased incidence and severity of cavum septum pellucidum), axonal injury (diffusion tensor imaging abnormalities), and decreased neuronal health and oxidative stress (N-Acetylasparate and glutathione using magnetic resonance spectroscopy). These discoveries however, have been identified in the absence of overt neuropsychological deficits and limited self-reported concerns.