Ng TS, Lin AP, Koerte IK, Pasternak O, Liao HJ, Merugumala S, Bouix S, Shenton ME. Neuroimaging in repetitive brain trauma. Alzheimers Res Ther 2014;6(1):10.
Sports-related concussions are one of the major causes of mild traumatic brain injury. Although most patients recover completely within days to weeks, those who experience repetitive brain trauma (RBT) may be at risk for developing a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). While this condition is most commonly observed in athletes who experience repetitive concussive and/or subconcussive blows to the head, such as boxers, football players, or hockey players, CTE may also affect soldiers on active duty. Currently, the only means by which to diagnose CTE is by the presence of phosphorylated tau aggregations post-mortem. Non-invasive neuroimaging, however, may allow early diagnosis as well as improve our understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of RBT. The purpose of this article is to review advanced neuroimaging methods used to investigate RBT, including diffusion tensor imaging, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, functional magnetic resonance imaging, susceptibility weighted imaging, and positron emission tomography. While there is a considerable literature using these methods in brain injury in general, the focus of this review is on RBT and those subject populations currently known to be susceptible to RBT, namely athletes and soldiers. Further, while direct detection of CTE in vivo has not yet been achieved, all of the methods described in this review provide insight into RBT and will likely lead to a better characterization (diagnosis), in vivo, of CTE than measures of self-report.