Mild TBI ups risk of emotional problems in kids

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Children who experience a traumatic brain injury, even a mild one, have more emotional and behavioral problems than kids who do not, research shows.

“These hits to the head are hard to study because much of it depends on recall of an injury since the impacts do not all require a visit to a doctor,” says Daniel Lopez, a PhD candidate in the epidemiology program at the University of Rochester Medical Center and first author of the study in the journal NeuroImage.

“But being able to analyze longitudinal data from a large cohort and ask important questions like this gives us valuable information into how a TBI, even a mild one, impacts a developing brain.”

Researchers at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience used MRI and behavioral data collected from thousands of children who participated in the Adolescence Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study. Their work reveals that children with a mild TBI experienced a 15% increased risk of an emotional or behavioral problem. The risk was the highest in children around 10 years old. Researchers found that children who had a significant hit to the head but did not meet diagnostic criteria for a mild TBI also had an increased risk of these behavioral and emotional problems.

The 10-year ABCD study is following 11,750 children through early adulthood. It looks at how biological development, behaviors, and experiences affect brain maturation and other aspects of their lives, including academic achievement, social development, and overall health.

Researchers hope future ABCD Study data will better reveal the impact these head hits have on mental health and psychiatric problems. “We know some of the brain regions associated with increased risk of mental health problems are impacted during a TBI,” says Ed Freedman, associate professor of neuroscience and co-principal investigator of the ABCD Study at the University of Rochester. Freedman also led this study.

“With more time and data, we hope to gain a better understanding of the long-term impact of even a mild TBI.”

The research had support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the UR Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center.

Source: University of Rochester