Scientists and doctors do not have concrete evidence of exactly how concussions and traumatic brain injuries affect human victims, making them more difficult to identify and treat. Experiments are often conducted post-mortem, but to examine the molecular level of a brain in a living human is near impossible. New research, however, provides an exciting look into what happens when an animal's brain is subject to jarring and injury. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a division of the National Institutes of Health, developed a new examination tool that allows them to scrape away microscopic layers of a mouse's skull so that they can then use strong microscopic lenses to see through the skull and examine the brain. The scientists applied pressure to the mouse's brain by pressing on the skull to imitate a concussion. This procedure revealed that the multiple membranes covering the brain were damaged upon injury (i.e. the "concussion"), leaving the membranes vulnerable and allowing molecules to leak into the brain. These molecules were free radicals that respond to inflammation and build up on the injury site, but can lead to cell death and tissue damage when produced in large quantities. In order to treat this occurrence, scientists injected powerful antioxidants that soak up the free radicals. This procedure was profoundly successful, significantly reducing the number of brain cells that died. This research will prompt new studies and hope for new treatments that can help assuage the damage caused by concussions in humans.
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