Communication by Brain Waves Alone

Some victims of severe traumatic brain injury are unable to speak at all or speak unintelligibly. What if it were possible for them to wear a set of EEG headphones that recorded their internal thoughts in the form of EEG waves and transmitted their EEG waves via computer to another person? What if the other computer accurately decoded their EEG waves into words that the message recipient could understand and reply to? Based on collaborative research by two labs and two universities including Harvard Medical School this has just been done. This research was published in the online science journal Plos One in August 2014.

Experimental Drug Gets Tested for Severe TBI

Researchers from the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Surgery, Division of Trauma and Critical Care, are now participating in a national clinical trial of an experimental drug to stop blood clot formation in victims of severe TBI. The drug known as Transexamic Acid (TXA) has the potential to save lives and improve outcomes. TXA will be administered to the treatment group once at the scene of the incident and again in the Emergency Department. A comparison group will receive just one dose at the scene, and the control group will receive only salt water.

Implantable Neural Interface Device for Healing TBI

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has just awarded $5.6 million to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to develop an electronic device that can be implanted in the brains of injured soldiers who sustained a TBI, PTSD or both. The device (called a neural interface) will have multiple electrodes sealed in a bio-compatible material. Through recordings the electrodes will detect damaged brain circuits, and then stimulate those circuits to promote reorganization and restoration of normal function. Other medical research teams at universities such as NYU and UC Berkeley are working on development of similar devices with assistance from corporations including LLNL and Medtronic.

Scientists Learn How to Produce New Brain Cells in Adult Mice

In the June 1, 2014 online issue of Nature Neuroscience Chay Kuo, M.D. Ph.D. of Duke reports that stimulating certain neurons in the adult mouse brain signaled stem cells in the subventricular zone (SVZ) of their brains to produce new neurons. The neurons that Dr. Kuo stimulated are designed to produce the choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) enzyme which is required to make the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Adult humans have the same equipment in their brains (i.e. the neurons that produce ChaT and the SVZ filled with stem cells).

Dr. Kuo hopes that one day in the future he may able to stimulate ChaT neurons in the adult human brain to signal stem cells in the SVZ to make new brain cells which will migrate to areas injured by TBI, stroke or degenerative brain disease. Although this development is still a long way off, Dr. Kuo will be doing his best to get there.

Michigan Residents Get Top Quality TBI Rehabilitation

Just outside of Lansing, Michigan, the Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center employs an interdisciplinary team of experts to meet the physical, social, spiritual, cognitive, and emotional needs of people who have sustained a brain injury. They focus on maximizing recovery, restoring quality of life, and independence. Michigan residents or others seeking rehabilitation for a TBI can learn more at

Neurorestoration Center Opens at Keck Hospital at USC

Keck Medicine of USC has just announced the establishment of the USC Neurorestoration Center. The center will bring together the best minds in bio-engineering, neuroscience and neuro-rehabilitation to restore neurological function in the human brain after such conditions as TBI, stroke, and neuro-degenerative diseases like MS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The center is the creation of director Charles Liu and co-director Christianne Heck, who worked together for 10 years mapping, decoding, and repairing basic neural circuitry in epilepsy patients.

Using Stem Cells to Stimulate Brain Repair After TBI

What kind of progress is being made in medical repair of traumatic brain injury? An article in May 2014 online issue of Frontiers in Systems of Neuorscience (doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2014.00116) by Naoki Tajiri et al. discusses the use of modified stem cells to create a “biobridge” between the site of cortical brain injury and the subventricular zone of the brain which is rich in stem cells. The use of immunohistochemistry and laser capture showed that these biobridges work, and can serve as an alternative to tissue grafts and infusion of trophic factors.

Enriched Environment Speeds Recovery From Mild TBI

The mouse model is the most often used to understand the causes, mechanisms, modes of recovery, and most effective treatments for traumatic brain injury (TBI) in humans. Using mice instead of humans spares humans from potentially destructive injury, and the brains of mice are so remarkably similar to those of humans that lessons learned from experiments on mice can be applied to humans.

Fifteen percent of people affected by mild TBI have difficult, prolonged, and incomplete recoveries. What can be done to help them? Recently Prof. Chagi Pick of Tel Aviv University’s Sagol School of Neuroscience performed an experiment on two groups of mice given the mouse equivalent of a human mild TBI. The results were published in the Nov. 2014 issue of Behavioral Brain Research. What Prof. Pick found was that the control group of mice who were left in normal cages recovered poorly. However, the test group that were put in cages with highly enriched environments fully recovered their cognitive abilities in six weeks. For mice enrichment means exposure to lots of sensory stimuli, open spaces to roam in, and plenty of opportunity to eat and exercise. For humans Prof. Pick says an enriched environment would include such things as prolonged and intensive physical activity, possibly combined with intensive cognitive stimulation. “Through proper exercise, stimuli, and diet, we can improve a patient’s condition,” he said.