Mild TBI Disrupts Function of the Thalamus
The July 2011 issue of the journal Radiology has an article by Yulin Ge, MD, of the Department of Radiology at NYU Langone Medical Center, and colleagues, regarding the effect of mild TBI on the thalamus. The thalamus is the part of the brain which receives sensory input from receptor areas for touch, hearing, sight, and taste, and relays them to appropriate areas of the brain for processing. It is also involved in regulation of consciousness, mood, and sleep.
When the thalamus is at rest due to lack of sensory input it should be putting out relatively few signals and all the signals should be symmetrical. Dr. Ge used functional magnetic resonance imaging to compare the resting state of the thalamus in 17 normal controls vs. 24 patients with mild TBI. The fMRI scans showed that normal people displayed a normal thalamic resting state, whereas the patients with mild TBI had increased activation of the thalamus with asymmetrical outputs. Although there is no treatment for this problem as yet, this phenomenon could help explain why people with mild TBI show disrupted cognitive function, mood swings, psychiatric problems, and sleep disorders.