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Mar 17, 2017 10:06 AM EDT

UCLA Scientists Find Link Between Traumatic Brain Injury And Poor Academic Outcomes

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Scientists at the University of California - Los Angeles have found a link between traumatic brain injury and poor academic outcomes. Apparently, a biological marker can predict early on whether a child or youth will experience further cognitive decline.

The study has been published in the online issue of "Neurology," a medical journal. The discovery can help researchers find ways to prevent progressive cognitive decline, which affects nearly half of children who experienced moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries, MedicalXpress reported.

Senior author Robert Asarnow, from UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, said that this discovery brings hope since it means that there is something that can be done about this problem. He noted that, in understanding why and how kids develop neurodegeneration, doctors can start using existing treatments or find new ways to delay the process.

Since brain injuries affect cognitive function, a decline would definitely mean poor academic outcomes in the future for these patients. Moreover, this could affect other areas of their lives as well.

According to UCLA Newsroom, the researchers conducted the study on 21 children with moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries. The children acquired the injuries through auto-pedestrian accidents, motor vehicle accidents as well as falls from bikes, scooters and skateboards.

The subjects were aged eight to 18 and were assessed twice: the first was two to five months after injury and the second was 13 to 19 months post-injury. The results of the assessments were compared with children of the same age who did not experience traumatic brain injury.

Children and adolescents who sustain traumatic brain injuries typically go through one of two trajectories. It's either they steadily progress toward normal, pre-injury functioning or suffer progressive, widespread cognitive decline.

This discovery is important since researchers have been unable to predict the outcomes early on. With this, the team used special MRIs and electroencephalograms (EEGs) to measure brain function by examining the speed of brain signals passing from one part of the brain to another.

Patients who had a healthy white matter or normal signaling between hemispheres continued to fare favorably when compared to healthy peers even after 13 to 19 months after they sustained their injuries. Those with significantly slower signaling showed progressive decline.

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