A common cause of brain injuries cancome from head trauma such as concussions, which, over time, can lead to extensivetraumatic brain injuries. This is one of the major causes of death andcognitive disabilities in the world. Many people who play sports such asfootball, hockey, soccer, or engage in mixed martial arts may encounter thistype of brain trauma multiple times during their career. However, not onlythose playing intense contact sports are at risk for the brain damage that leadto the instant cell death at the site of impact and surrounded cell death daysafter.
Concussions are very common occurrences for people of all ages,sometimes simply caused by a fall or running into something. Any sort oftraumatic brain injury, repeated or not, can lead to lifetime problems processinginformation and some motions. Theresearch of Daniela Noain and Christian Baumann reported in Neuroscience Newsarticle “Enhancing Sleep After Brain Injury Reduces Brain Damage and CognitiveDecline in Rats” examines a potential treatment for reducing some of theeffects of traumatic brain injury (“Enhancing Sleep”,2016). After braininjury, there is a buildup of molecular waste, and recent research hassuggested that the bran is able to dispose of some of this waste duringslow-wave sleep. Noian and Baumann wanted to see if this could be applied as apotential treatment for lessening the symptoms of traumatic brain injuries. Totest their hypothesis, they used twenty-five rats, which they dealt a blow tothe prefrontal cortex to, in an attempt to mimic the brain injury.
As discussedin class, the prefrontal cortex, located at the rostral part of the frontallobe, is involved in motor planning, though, executive processes, and workingmemory (Gobel 2018). After the rats were injured, they were split into threegroups, one which deprived of sleep, the second was given sodium oxybate toinduce a state of slow-wave sleep, and the third and final group received aplacebo drug. The rats were monitored for the next five days, making sure theywere reaching a state of slow-wave sleep. After, the rats were given a memorytest, and their brains examined for damaged axons in areas associated withlearning and memory. Goble has discussed multiple areas that are implicated in theseprocesses which the researchers could have checked for damage besides simply thefrontal love.
These areas include limbic system structures, such as the amygdala,hippocampus and fornix (2018). Thefindings of the study were congruent with the hypothesis. The rats that experiencedenhanced slow-wave sleep did better on the memory test as well as had extremelyreduced levels of axonal injury, nearly 80% less than the placebo rats. Thefull Neuroscience News article can be found at http://neurosciencenews.com/tbi-sleep-axons-neuroscience-3924/.To the scientific community, this means that slow-wave sleep can be a newavenue to study potential treatments for concussions, other traumatic braininjuries, as well as any other disease that may cause molecular waste.
Not onlydoes this data prove interesting within the scientific community, but theimplications of this study could be monumental for people who are experiencingtraumatic brain injury, especially early on in life. While it must be takeninto consideration that this study was done with an animal model, and much moreresearch is needed, the findings support the idea that rest and sleep iscritical after experiencing a brain injury, something that many professionalsports teams do not seem to enforce, by continuing to play members of theirteams shortly after potential injuries. Despitethis, more research and some clarification are needed before some sort ofslow-wave-sleep-enhancing treatment program could be implemented in humans. Thearticle is unclear if the rats did the task every day for the five days, or ifthe task was administered after the five days, which is an importantdistinction that they should have added to the article. If it was every day,did memory improve as time passed? Would memory keep improving if this was thecase and the animals were monitored longer? It also never fully defined what”rats receiving treatments to enhance slow-wave sleep” meant (“Enhancing Sleep”, 2016). This could assume that only the placebo groupwas untreated, as short periods of sleep deprivation can improve slow-wavesleep.
They also did not describe how many rats were in each group. A graph ofthe results of the three experimental groups would have been helpful to seewhich method worked best to increase the cognitive function of the rats, and tohelp determine which groups were considered experimental. While it would be unethicalto perform such a task on humans, patients that come in to hospitals or for treatmentfor traumatic brain injuries could be used in the future to see if this researchwill have any potential in humans, as, also, if it’s effects are across multipletypes of memory, or simply one. With the rats, there would not be the potentialfor testing declarative memory function, but that could be something to be assessedin a human who received the treatment with a temporal lobe injury (Gobel, 2018).