Mapping Brain Activity

About a week ago, President Obama announced that his administration plans to support a decade long study to map the human brain activity. The project is called the Brain Activity Map (BAM) Project. All experts universally agree that the Brain Activity Map (BAM) Project will be vastly more complicated than the project which sequenced the human genome. 

Such a study would no doubt aid in the diagnosis and analysis of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and other brain diseases. It would skyrocket our understanding of cognitive functions such as memory, attention, focus, organization, and decision-making. This deeper knowledge of how the brain communicates can lead to revolution in treating Traumatic Brain Injury and other brain diseases

At the heart of the Brain Activity Map (BAM) Project is attempting to understand the organization or blue print of the connections between the billions of neurons in the human brain. It is the connection between the neurons (neural networks) that is the foundation of communication within the brain. The neural networks are formed from possibly trillions of connections between billions of neurons. To illustrate the infinite number of connections that can form within the human brain, a simple worm brain has 302 neurons which can lead to 7000 connections. The human brain has 85 to 100 billion neurons.

When a brain is subject to a force that causes it to suddenly accelerate and then to decelerate, the part of the neuron that is most vulnerable to structural damage is the axon. It is the axon that acts as a communication highway allowing signals to travel between neurons- the fundamental physiological connection between neurons. This type of injury to the Brain is known as Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI) or Traumatic Axonal Injury (TAI) or White Matter Tract Injury. In mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) cases, while the normal MRIs often do not detect axonal injury, studies such as MRI with Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) are more sensitive to detecting axonal injury. Unfortunately, the insurance industry is trying it's best to avoid paying for more sensitive tests which would detect axonal structural damage. The less there is to prove that the insured has a brain injury, the easier it is for the insurance industry to deny further treatment.

When the axon is damaged, its ability to act as a communication highway is impaired. This leads to certain parts of the brain to not be able to communicate at all or not as effectively, depending upon the severity of the axonal injury. This will logically affect cognition- memory, attention, focus, organization and decision-making. Given that certain areas of the brain control emotions, axonal injury to those areas will affect the brain's ability to regulate emotions. In mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) cases, depression, anxiety, anger and other emotional consequences are common symptoms in addition to cognitive impairment. It should be noted the emotional impairment such as depression, anxiety and anger can be the consequences of cognitive impairments without there being a patho-physiological basis such as axonal injury to the parts of the brain responsible for emotional control or inhibition. So emotional impairment can be both a product of physiological damage- structural damage to the axon and as a result of the emotional toll from cognitive impairments. 

The part of the brain that controls emotions is the limbic system which consists of hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, and hypothalamus.

Diffusion Tensor Imaging studies have identified a common region of the brain with regard the detection of Traumatic Axonal Injury (TAI). Due to its location and given the anatomy of the brain, the part of the brain that is statistically  most susceptible to Traumatic Axonal Injury (TAI) or Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI) is the vicinity of the corpus callosum. This is the part where the right and left hemisphere of the brain meet and are joined. This is also where the limbic system is located. 

The possibility of detecting and treating brain injuries and disorders would be limitless if the BAM Project is successful. It will give us a much deeper understanding how the brain works — the final frontier of the human body.

NGUYEN LEFTT P.C. – Traumatic Brain Injury Attorneys / Lawyers
565 Fifth Avenue, 22nd Floor, New York, NY 10017
tel: 212-256-1755   •   fax: 212-256-1756 

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