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Bubbles in brain could cause traumatic brain injuries

A research team at Brown University is studying whether bubbles created by pressure waves are to blame for traumatic brain injuries. The results of the study could lead to better protective gear and TBI treatments for people in Wisconsin and worldwide.

The goal of the study, which was presented at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society's division of fluid dynamics on Nov. 23, is to see if pressure waves damage nerves cells, also known as neurons, in the brain. The Brown researchers, led by an aerospace engineer, have grown neurons in a soup of proteins. The neurons form connections like they would in a real brain, but they are spaced farther apart. The extra space between the neurons makes it easier to study the potential damage of pressure waves.

Using a laser to mimic consistent pressure waves, the researchers cause "cavitation" in their protein mixture. Cavitation is the formation and collapse of bubbles inside a fluid by an external force. Over time, repetitive cavitation is destructive enough to eat away steel. Though the research is incomplete, the study's lead author suspects cavitation may be behind TBI. If that is the case, researchers will need to figure out how to minimize pressure waves inside the human skull to prevent brain damage. The research could lead to better protective gear for soldiers, SWAT team members who work with explosives and athletes who are subjected to repeated blows to the head, such as football players and boxers. It could also lead to better medical care for TBI victims.

Brain trauma can lead to a lifetime of medical issues, including depression and memory problems. If a brain injury was caused by the negligence of another person, such as in an automobile collision, it may be advisable for an injured victim to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party seeking compensation for the damages that have been sustained. An attorney could explain the legal options in detail.

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