Investigating and Modeling the Mechanical Contributions to Traumatic Brain Injury in Contact Sports and Chronic Neural Implant Performance
thesisposted on 10.06.2019 by Roy J Lycke
In order to distinguish essays and pre-prints from academic theses, we have a separate category. These are often much longer text based documents than a paper.
Mechanical trauma to the brain, both big and small, and the method to protect the brain in its presence is a crucial field of research given the large population exposed to neuronal trauma daily and the benefit available through better understanding and injury prevention. A population of particular interest and risk are youth athletes in contact sports due to large accelerations they expose themselves to and their developing brains. To better monitor the risk these athletes are exposed to, their accumulation of head acceleration events (HAEs), a measure correlated with harmful neurological changes, was tracked over sport seasons. It was observed that few significant differences in HAEs accumulated existed between players of ages from middle school to high school, but there did exist a difference between sports with girls' soccer players accumulating fewer HAEs than football players. This highlights to risk youth athletes are exposed to and the importance of improved technique and individual player size. To better monitor HAEs for each individual, a novel head segmentation program was developed that extracts player specific geometries from a single T1 MRI scan that can improve the accuracy of HAE monitoring. Acceleration measures processed with individualized head model versus those using a standardized head model typically displayed higher accelerations, highlighting the need for individualized measure for accurate monitoring of HAEs and risk of neurological changes. In addition to the large accelerations present in contact sports, the small but constant strains produced by neural implants embedded in the brain is also an important field of neuro-mechanical research as the physical properties of neural implants have been found to contribute to the chronic immune response, a major factor preventing the widespread implementation of neural implants. To reduce the severity of the immune response and provide improved chronic functionality, researchers have varied neural implant design and materials, finding general trends but not precise relationships between the design factors and how they contribute the mechanical strain in the brain. Performing a large series of mechanical simulations and Cotter's sensitivity analyses, the relationships between neural design factors and the stain they produce in the brain was examined. It was found that the direction which neural implants are loaded contributes the most to the strain produced in the brain followed by the degree of bonding between the brain and the electrode. Directly related to the design of electrodes themselves, it was found that in most cases reducing the cross-sectional area of the probe resulted in a larger decrease of mechanical strain compared to softening the implant. Finally, a study was performed quantifying the resting micromotion of the brain utilizing a novel method of soft tissue micromotion measurement via microCT, applicable within the skull and the throughout the rest of the body.