Multiple mild traumatic brain injury in the rat produces persistent pathological alterations in the brain

Diane M. Brooks, Sarjubhai A. Patel, Eric D. Wohlgehagen, Erin O. Semmens, Alan Pearce, Edmond A. Sorich, Thomas F. Rau

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15 Scopus citations


Multiple mild traumatic brain injury (mmTBI), in certain cases, produces persistent symptoms. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying these symptoms remain unclear. Here, we demonstrate extended pathological changes in the rat brain following mmTBI. Using the lateral fluid percussion (LFP) technique we exposed adult male Wistar rats to a mild TBI (mTBI) once a week for four weeks and compared them to surgical shams. At 90 days following the last TBI or sham procedure the animals were cognitively tested in the Morris Water Maze (MWM), euthanized, and the brains removed for immunohistochemistry. At 90 days following the last mTBI, NRF-2 staining was significantly decreased in the hilus of the hippocampus and cortex on the injured side, but did not significantly differ from shams on the un-injured side. CD68 positive microglia were significantly increased in the ipsilateral corpus callosum, cortex, and internal capsule of injured animals. Reactive astrocytosis, determined by increased GFAP staining, was also evident in the corpus callosum, cortex, internal capsule and thalamus on the injured side. Interestingly, the corpus callosum thickness at the midline was decreased in injured animals and had evident demyelination when compared to sham animals. Despite these findings, there were no significant differences in neurological assessments at 90 days following the last injury. In MWM testing there were not significant differences in the training phase, the time spent in the thigmotaxia zone, or the target quadrant during the probe trial. However, there were significant differences between shams and injured animals in platform zone crossings during the probe trial. These results demonstrate that repetitive head trauma may produce persistent, long-term pathological alterations in brain architecture that may be difficult to detect using standard cognitive and neurological assessments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-72
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Neurology
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • Persistent neuropathology
  • Repetitive traumatic brain injury


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