Brain connectivity after mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) has not been investigated longitudinally with respect to both functional and structural networks together within the same patients, crucial to capture the multifaceted neuropathology of the injury and to comprehensively monitor the course of recovery and compensatory reorganizations at macro-level. We performed a prospective study with 49 mTBI patients at an average of 5 days and 1 year post-injury and 49 healthy controls. Neuropsychological assessments as well as resting-state functional and diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging were obtained. Functional and structural connectome analyses were performed using network-based statistics. They included a cross-sectional group comparison and a longitudinal analysis with the factors group and time. The latter tracked the subnetworks altered at the early phase and, in addition, included a whole-brain group x time interaction analysis. Finally, we explored associations between the evolution of connectivity and changes in cognitive performance. The early phase of mTBI was characterized by a functional hypoconnectivity in a subnetwork with a large overlap of regions involved within the classical default mode network. In addition, structural hyperconnectivity in a subnetwork including central hub areas such as the cingulate cortex was found. The impaired functional and structural subnetworks were strongly correlated and revealed a large anatomical overlap. One year after trauma and compared to healthy controls we observed a partial normalization of both subnetworks along with a considerable compensation of functional and structural connectivity subsequent to the acute phase. Connectivity changes over time were correlated with improvements in working memory, divided attention, and verbal recall. Neuroplasticity-induced recovery or compensatory processes following mTBI differ between brain regions with respect to their time course and are not fully completed 1 year after trauma.
Dall’Acqua, P., Johannes, S., Mica, L., Simmen, H.-P., Glaab, R., Fandino, J., … Hänggi, J. (2017). Functional and Structural Network Recovery after Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A 1-Year Longitudinal Study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00280