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Impact of brain trauma in childhood on white matter maturation

Principal Investigator:
  • Anne Wheeler, The Hospital for Sick Children

Project Overview

An enormous amount of brain development occurs throughout childhood and experiencing a concussion during this time may have long-lasting effects. An important part of brain development is the maturation of brain connectivity. Connections in the brain are made up of axons, the long thin projections of nerve cells that are wrapped in myelin, a fatty part of support cells. Babies are born with very little myelin in their brains and the process of myelination spans childhood and adolescence. Concussion is known to cause inflammation in the brain and the interaction between this inflammation and the process of myelination is not known. In this project, we test the novel hypothesis that persistent inflammation after concussion induces premature myelination that may limit the ability of the brain to adapt to its environment. Our unique translational approach uses advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in studies of children and young mice that experience concussion to monitor whole-brain inflammation and myelination. This will allow us to establish the impact of concussion in childhood on subsequent brain maturation, determine what cellular changes the advanced MRI measures are sensitive to, and target cellular processes to mitigate the long-lasting effects of injury during development. This project overcomes previous barriers to assessing the impact of persistent inflammation on developmental myelination by leveraging a publicly available large pediatric cohort study and linking these observations to an experimental model that tests for causal associations between injury-induced and developmental processes.