Head Injury Research
Traumatic brain injury is the most common cause of death in childhood. Traditionally, the engineering and medical communities have assumed that children respond as miniature adults, which influences protective equipment design and clinical practice guidelines in treatment, and in diagnostic distinction of violence-related injuries from unintentional injuries. However, using computational simulations and conducting experiments with animals, humans, anthropomorphic dolls, and tissues, our lab has determined that size is not the only important factor. Rather, mechanisms of severe brain injury also vary with the age of the child, because the mechanical properties of the tissues and their functional thresholds change during development. We have developed the only immature animal model that recreates the constellation of diffuse brain injuries seen in children, and have used it to correlate rapid head accelerations with histopathological and functional (behavior, cognition, motor) responses in mild, severe, and even repeated head injuries. We have measured region- and age-dependent variations in brain and skull properties, and the large strain nonlinear behavior and macroscopic anisotropy of brain tissue, and these data have had a profound impact on computational models of the head. Our work has demonstrated that regional tissue strain correlates with neural and vascular structural failure. This finding formed the rationale for investigators to deform isolated neural bundle preparations and determine a relationship between the uniaxial strain and the degree of injury. Current studies investigate new injury therapeutic interventions in acute and chronically injured animals. In a field filled with social, medical, and legal controversy, our research program is redefining the paradigm for how traumatic head injuries occur in children.
Material Properties testing
Finite Element Model of infant skull used to
predict skull fracture
Anthropomorphic Test Dummy used to determine biomechanical loads on infant head during low