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Neurological Effects of Concussions

Protect Your Dome!

Head trauma is often a pivotal moment in many people’s lives, being the signature of many lasting side effects and symptoms that you can’t quite wrap your head around. With varying degrees of trauma, the most common concern when experiencing any sudden movement to the skull, whether it be whiplash or impact, is a concussion. Suffering a concussion usually begins with sudden drowsiness, a potential loss of consciousness, seeing “stars”, and chronic headaches that persist a few days. Long-term side effects can include psychological and behavioral issues that have immense impact on people’s lives. While incredibly common, concussions still pose questions to top neurological researchers and doctors despite the advancement of brain scanning and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology that allows doctors to illustrate a detailed image of what lies underneath the skull.

While many argue what components of concussions contribute to persisting symptoms it is widely accepted that reduced blood flow to the brain is an immediate contributing factor. Renowned psychologist, Dr. Daniel Amen, has popularized SPECT  brain scans as a method of diagnosing psychological disorders in people. SPECT scans can detect the amount of blood flow to the brain and differentiate the amount of activity between regions of the brain. Dr. Amen mentions the most vulnerable regions being the temporal lobes, responsible for mood and learning, as well as the pituitary gland that controls hormone regulation which when disturbed, will drastically alter a person’s experience of life and consequently create a paradigm that would be categorized as a psychiatric disorder (depression, anxiety, irritability, substance abuse, etc.)

An article written by Helen Santoro, in Knowable magazine, discusses the array of possible causes of persistent symptoms in ~20% of concussion cases and specifically the damage of the meninges and lymphatic vessels in the skull. The meninges is the layered membrane that surrounds brain and spinal cord, responsible for protecting and dampening the effects of impact on the central nervous system. It also provides the framework for the meningeal lymphatic system which drains waste from the surrounding interstitial fluid and cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain. Over time small hits to the head can accumulate kinks and blockages within the meningeal lymphatic system leading to an impaired drainage ability in the brain and skull subsequently causing tau protein and beta-amyloid plaque buildup that has been associated with degenerative cognitive diseases such as alzheimers and dementia. Though mapped out by Italian physician, Paolo Mascagni, in the 18th century the presence of a lymphatic network in the skull hasn’t been supported in medical literature up until 2014 when studies from the University of Virginia and the University of Helsinki were compiled and looked over by Danish neurologist Maiken Nedergaard who identified the connection between the glymphatic system and the meninges. This was a massive milestone in neurology opening up a whole new lens to see how impact injuries affect the brain and leading researchers down a novel pathway in finding solutions for persisting symptoms following concussions.

In conjunction with the recent acknowledgment of the meningeal lymphatic system, current research suggests a primary cause of post-concussive symptoms is the result of brain tissue being stretched following acute blows to the skull. Neurons in the brain tissue create networks that are the framework for our bodily systems and influence the way we perceive the human experience. When the brain tissue is stretched, the bridges collapse causing massive disruptions to those networks. When the networks fail to communicate as they once did, numerous symptoms can arise that severely affect the way one goes about their everyday life. Luckily, the parts of the brain responsible for our survival functions are adjacent to the brainstem and lie deep within the skull. On the flip side, the regions of the brain subject to the most trauma during impact are those responsible for mood, decision making, long-term memory, behavior, and motivation. These regions include the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, temporal lobe, and occipital lobe.

Alongside the symptoms aforementioned there will be persistent neurological deficits such as dysfunctional eye tracking also known as nystagmus, vibrational issues within the lambda and bregma points of the cranial sutures, and ligament dysfunction of the jaw that have the potential of prolonging post-concussive symptoms. This is where the Melita method comes into play. Through a complex system of neurological testing we can determine the priority of these neurological deficits and find the main protagonist of the symptoms experienced. Regeneration of the nervous tissue and healing of the capillaries can only occur when the nervous system is working in a regulatory fashion providing proper communication to the tissues surrounding the skull and brain. Through a variety of tools and release techniques, we can help restore that balance of neurological communication in order to stimulate healing of the lymphatic system, neurons, blood vessels, and alleviate symptoms from concussions. At the end of the day, like any injury, it is best to take every preventative measure possible when putting yourself in a high risk position for head trauma. Wear your helmets, kids. Protect your dome!