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Myelin damage may be key to prognosis after brain injury

A recent study conducted by researchers at two California universities indicates that brain injury recovery times may be linked to myelin, a fatty substance that acts as an insulator for nerve fibers. The research team hypothesized that trauma may damage the brain’s myelin, and thereby lessen the speed of information transmission in the brain.

One of the study’s authors, a postdoctoral researcher at USC, suggested that the research may be useful in making prognoses following brain injuries, so medical personnel can more readily identify high-risk patients. The research focused on a group of 32 young people between 8 and 19 years old who had experienced moderate to severe injury to the brain during the prior five months. The individuals in the group were given tests of cognitive flexibility, verbal learning and short-term memory.

The UCLA researchers examined brain electrical activity to see how quickly the young people’s brain nerve fibers were transmitting information. Those young people who showed the most myelin damage performed 14 percent slower than individuals in a control group on the mental tests. Those who had suffered a brain injury but whose myelin was nearly intact were 9 percent faster than those with more severe myelin damage, but still slower than the control group.

The study indicates that the integrity of the brain’s myelin impacts how quickly a child or teenager regains information processing and recall after a concussion or other head injury. Symptoms of brain injury may take days or weeks to manifest following a traumatic event. Individuals who have suffered a brain injury caused by the negligence of another may wish to consult an attorney regarding the advisability of filing a personal injury lawsuit seeking damages from the responsible party.

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