Cooling Concussions and TBIs


MADISON, Wis. (Ivanhoe Newswire)- A sports injury, a car accident, even a simple bump or blow to the head can cause concussion or traumatic brain injury, or TBIs. These injuries can have negative short and long-term effects, such as concentration and memory problems, mood swings, insomnia, and fatigue. But there may be a simple way to protect the brain from these adverse effects.

Every year, 2.5 million people get a traumatic brain injury (TBIs). Eighty thousand suffer permanent disability.  Fifty thousand die.

“Traumatic brain injury in general at the moment does not have an FDA approved treatment,” Harry Cramer III, a PhD candidate at Brown University explains.

That’s why researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison are studying how cooling the brain may be able to shield against the negative effects of a concussion or TBIs. But instead of putting an ice pack on the head, these researchers are cooling the brain at a cellular level. Using brain cells in a dish, they looked for the sweet temperature for cooling.

“What we found in our study was that cooling just a few degrees to about 33 degrees Celsius and then within the first four hours was most beneficial,” Christian Franck, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison stated.

(Read Full Interviewe)

On slides, healthy brain cells show up in green right after a concussion-causing impact and temperature-lowering treatment. Thirty-three degrees preserved the most brain cells, while cooling too much, at 31 degrees, causes injury to the cells.

“The targeted application of cooler temperatures in a very controlled way can actually slow down cellular processes that are occurring within these cells after injury,” Cramer explains.

Now, the scientists are researching the best delivery treatment directly to the brain.

“We were kind of envisioning it almost like a little inhaler that has a coolant in it” Franck says.

The researchers found the best outcome was when the cooling lasted for six hours, but Franck says cooling for even as little as 30 minutes showed some benefits.


Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Executive Producer & Field Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor.

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BACKGROUND: According to the National Institutes of Health, millions of people in the U.S. suffer brain injuries every year. A traumatic brain injury (TBIs) occurs from sudden trauma that causes damage to the brain. A TBI can happen when the head suddenly and violently hits an object or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue. On the other hand, a concussion is more common in physical contact sports. It is a form of brain injury which involves a short loss of normal brain function following a hit to the head or body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. Although they are typically not life-threatening, concussions can be serious.


EFFECTS OF HEAD INJURIES: Brain function can be temporarily impaired even after a minor head injury which can lead to difficulties such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, depression, irritability, and memory problems. While most people are symptom-free within two weeks, some can experience problems for months or even years after a minor head injury. The more severe the brain injury, the more pronounced the long-term effects are likely to be. Survivors of more severe brain injury are likely to have complex long-term problems affecting their personality, their relationships, and their ability to lead an independent life. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment can include ice; rest; topical antibiotic ointment and adhesive bandage; observation; immediate medical attention; stitches; hospitalization; moderate sedation or assistance with breathing that would require being placed on a breathing machine, or mechanical ventilator or respirator; or surgery. Treatment is individualized, depending on the extent of the condition and the presence of other injuries.

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NEW TREATMENT PREVENTION: A new study shows that an antibody treatment could help traumatic brain injuries. Published in the journal Science, Jeanne Paz, a U.S. National Science Foundation-funded scientist at Gladstone Institutes and her team identified a specific molecule in a part of the brain called the thalamus that plays a key role in secondary effects of brain injury, such as sleep disruption, epileptic activity, and inflammation. In collaboration with scientists at Annexon Biosciences, they also showed that an antibody treatment could prevent the development of these negative outcomes. “Understanding how the traumatic brain injury affects the brain, especially in the long term, is a really important gap in research that could help develop new and better treatment options,” said Paz.



Alex Holloway

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Christian Franck, PhD, Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Read the entire Q&A