Futurity

Jello shows how hit to skull wobbles our brain

To study traumatic brain injury, engineers are looking at the brain's "suspension system." Their tools include jello, sprinkles, and a vibrating pillow.

Engineers are taking a closer look at the brain’s “suspension system” and their insights could provide a way to limit or even prevent traumatic brain injury.

TBI can be devastating and debilitating. Despite intense interest and years of study, the exact mechanisms linking force and neurological injury remain unclear. Researchers know that the membranes separating the skull from the brain play a key role in absorbing shock and preventing damage caused during a head impact, but the details remain largely mysterious.

“The idea was to find out how protective are the layers of membranes that connect the brain to the skull,” says Philip Bayly, professor of mechanical engineering and chair of the mechanical engineering & materials science department at the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis.

“They serve the same function as the suspension in your car. When you go over a bump in a car, there’s a big oscillation of the wheels but you get very little motion in your body because the suspension absorbs it.

“We know that the membranes are there to cushion the brain, but by how much, and what’s the variation from person to person?”

During the study, researchers used an imaging technique called magnetic resonance elastography, or MRE, on six volunteers. During MRE, a vibrating pillow introduces tiny skull vibrations, which sensors embedded in a mouthguard measure. The researchers then measured motion of the brain via magnetic resonance imaging. When compared to a gelatin model that showed significant force transfer, the six subjects’ skull-brain interface significantly delayed and weakened the transfer of motion from skull to brain.

“We’re putting numbers to it, quantifying how much protection is actually there,” Bayly says. “During our study, 90 percent of the motion to the brain was attenuated.”

The next steps: eliminating the need for the mouthguard-sensor system and developing a more streamlined MRE method, which could enable a larger study with many more subjects.

“This would allow us to examine factors such as age or gender as variables when it comes to traumatic brain injury, and see who might be more susceptible to such injuries,” Bayly says.

The Journal of Biomechanical Engineering has accepted the work for publication.

Financial support for the study came from the National Institutes of Health.

Source: Washington University in St. Louis

The post Jello shows how hit to skull wobbles our brain appeared first on Futurity.

More from Futurity

Futurity2 min read
Drug Combo Could Treat Triple-negative Breast Cancer
Researchers have discovered a new role for the oncogene MYCN in triple-negative breast cancer and have also identified a potential intervention for further clinical investigation. MYCN—a well-known oncogene that plays a role in cancer aggressiveness—
Futurity1 min read
How To Understand Social Distancing As A Moral Issue
Social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19 is a moral imperative, an expert argues. That said, there are clear reasons why people aren’t sticking with social distancing, too, says Laura Howard, an associate professor of philosophy in University
Futurity2 min read
Warning Labels For Soda Are Legally Tricky
Existing warnings on other products should offer a roadmap for labeling soda and other sugary drinks without violating the First Amendment, a global health expert argues. In 2015, San Francisco passed the country’s first and only law requiring a warn