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Head-to-nerve analysis of electromechanical impairments of diffuse axonal injury

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Abstract

The aim was to investigate mechanical and functional failure of diffuse axonal injury (DAI) in nerve bundles following frontal head impacts, by finite element simulations. Anatomical changes following traumatic brain injury are simulated at the macroscale by using a 3D head model. Frontal head impacts at speeds of 2.5–7.5 m/s induce mild-to-moderate DAI in the white matter of the brain. Investigation of the changes in induced electromechanical responses at the cellular level is carried out in two scaled nerve bundle models, one with myelinated nerve fibres, the other with unmyelinated nerve fibres. DAI occurrence is simulated by using a real-time fully coupled electromechanical framework, which combines a modulated threshold for spiking activation and independent alteration of the electrical properties for each three-layer fibre in the nerve bundle models. The magnitudes of simulated strains in the white matter of the brain model are used to determine the displacement boundary conditions in elongation simulations using the 3D nerve bundle models. At high impact speed, mechanical failure occurs at lower strain values in large unmyelinated bundles than in myelinated bundles or small unmyelinated bundles; signal propagation continues in large myelinated bundles during and after loading, although there is a large shift in baseline voltage during loading; a linear relationship is observed between the generated plastic strain in the nerve bundle models and the impact speed and nominal strains of the head model. The myelin layer protects the fibre from mechanical damage, preserving its functionalities.

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Cinelli, I., Destrade, M., McHugh, P., Trotta, A., Gilchrist, M., & Duffy, M. (2019). Head-to-nerve analysis of electromechanical impairments of diffuse axonal injury. Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology, 18(2), 361–374. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10237-018-1086-8

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