An important breakthrough in identifying the link between post-concussion and anxiety & depression

For many years there has been an air of confusion around the after effects of concussion, and indeed a debate on whether there were any lingering effects at all. Many studies have attempted to answer this question, and to what degree, however a recent study has shed some important and interesting light on the debate, and has opened the door to more targeted treatment for patients suffering from depression and anxiety following a traumatic brain injury. These results could also yield fantastic opportunities to further understand the complex nature of these very common conditions.

For anyone who sustains this type of injury and undergoes concussion treatment, there is always the concern that additional side effects will occur further down the road, however it seems that sustaining a traumatic brain injury, or concussion, could actually cause depression or anxiety symptoms at a later date.

A study undertaken by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center showed definite links to state that depression and anxiety sufferers who have previously had a concussion may have sustained white matter damage within the brain. White matter is the connections between the different parts of the brain.

To conduct the study, a specific MRI technique was used to measure the white matter and its state and integrity, testing nerve fibers for possible damage. 45 patients were tested, 38 displaying signs of irritability, 32 with depression, and 18 with symptoms of anxiety, and the overall results were compared at completion with the same study done on 29 patients with no depression or anxiety symptoms at all, but who had also previously sustained a concussion.

The results showed a clear relationship, with different white matter injury patterns between those patients who were suffering from anxiety, and those who were suffering from depression. Irritability did not show any definite conclusion however.

Patients who were suffering from depression following a concussion injury showed a decrease in fractional anisotropy, which measures the white matter and its integrity, specifically around the area near the deep gray matter. Anxiety sufferers showed a reduction in fractional anisotropy in the area of the vermis, which is a particular part of the brain associated with fear responses.

This study has yielded important information on not only how the brain is affected by an injury, even after concussion treatment, but also how different treatment methods should be targeted to different types of after-effects. There is also the possible situation that patients with depression and anxiety who haven’t suffered an immediate traumatic brain injury, may have done so at a point in the past, which could have led to the ongoing development of depression at a later date.

Further study and research needs to be done to establish further links, however the information gathered from this particular study has opened up potential leaps forward in treatment.