Gerald Voelbel of Occupational Therapy Department Builds a Case for Brain Mapping

 

Following a year-long review of the most significant traumatic brain injury (TBI) research spanning 17 years, NYU Steinhardt Assistant Professor Gerald Voelbel, concludes that the use of the neuroimaging (brain mapping) technique, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), can be used to repair the brain.

Voelbel’s conclusions are highlighted in his recent study, “Diffusion Tensor Imaging of Traumatic Brain Injury Review: Implications for Neurohabilitiation.”

“When someone suffers from a TBI the brain chemicals and pathways are disrupted. The white matter pathways that carry these brain chemicals can be over excited, stretched and even torn,” Voelbel explained. “These disruptions are what alter the cognition, or behavior, of the patient. This research demonstrates that through diffusion tensor imaging, we can look at the disrupted pathways and determine how to reconnect them or create new ones during patient rehabilitation.”

Approximately 1.7 million people sustain traumatic brain injuries each year. President Obama’s  “BRAIN Initiative,” will provide approximately $100 million of his 2014 budget to help researchers find new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.

According to Voelbel, moderate to severe TBI can result in loss of verbal memory, short-term memory, executive function, and the ability to process information or concentrate.  During patient rehabilitation, clinicians work to restore these abilities through various “brain training” methods that may include writing tests or memory games.

“This research builds a strong case in measuring how these white matter pathways are associated with behavior changes resulting from TBI,” said Voelbel. “However, as clinicians seek to rehabilitate TBI patients, work still needs to be done on taking pre and post rehabilitation trauma images.  We will be able to compare the images to identify – at the brain level – what changes are being made during rehabilitation when treating patients. But this is a good start.”

VIDEO: Voelbel talks concussions and mild brain injury