Scientists have identified a distinctive pattern of injury in the brains of eight deceased military personnel who survived high explosive attacks and died between 4 days and 9 years later from their injuries or other causes. The findings published in The Lancet Neurology journal suggest that the pattern of damage to the brain seen among men exposed to blast shockwaves was different to the pattern of damage seen in men exposed to other types of head injury. They found a distinctive, consistent, and unique pattern of prominent scarring in parts of the brain that are crucial for cognitive function, memory, sleep and other important functions.
“In controls we did not see similar scarring to the blast cases, which increases the likelihood that the pattern is linked with high-explosive exposure. Although little is known about the effect of blast shockwave on the human brain, the unique pattern of damage that we found is consistent with known shockwave effects on the human body,” said Dr. Daniel Perl from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Maryland. “Although routine imaging for blast-related traumatic brain injury often shows no brain abnormalities, soldiers frequently report debilitating neuropsychiatric symptoms such as headaches, sleep disturbance, memory problems, erratic behaviour and depression suggesting structural damage to the brain. Because the underlying pathophysiology is unknown, we have difficulty diagnosing and treating these ‘invisible wounds’.”