Cannabis and Med students (8/8/19 newsletter)


We are pleased to have Carleton College students and alumni interning with Concussion Alliance. Intern contributors this week:

Editor: Galen Moller
Contributors: Eloïse Cowan and Julian Szieff.

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Concussion Alliance collaborates with the Northwest Brain Injury Symposium, video of the concussion panel discussion

Our blog post has the video of the hour-long panel discussion with concussion experts at the Sports and Traumatic Brain Injury conference, hosted by the Northwest Brain Injury Symposium (NWBIS). The event at the Spokane Library was part of the NWBIS lecture series and complements the Smithsonian traveling exhibit “Hometown Teams.” Concussion Alliance provided educational components for the event. The panelists were all specialists in concussion care, and included: Ryan Baker, MD (physician); Christine Guzzardo, PhD (neuropsychologist); Megan Lusk PT, DPT (physical therapist); Heidi J. Peterson, LAT, ATC, PES (licensed athletic trainer); and RaMona Pinto, MS, CBIS (Eastern Resource Manager for the Brain Injury Alliance of Washington).


Study shows headgear decreases concussion incidence in high school women’s lacrosse

A new study from NYU Langone Medical Center showed a significant reduction in concussions after implementing mandatory headgear in a small group of New York high schools (8 total teams ~ 160 girls). Compared to the national averages from ROI (a high school sports database), there was a 76% reduction in concussion rates. This is important, as concussions are the most common injury in women’s high school lacrosse, and lacrosse is a high impact sport. Surprisingly, this headgear is not required by US Lacrosse, but all headgear worn must meet their performance standards. This study supports the high schools’ decision to make headgear mandatory, as it seems to reduce the risk of getting a concussion. The study by Samuel L. Baron, BS, et al. was published in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine.


Washington State University College of Medicine announces it will provide instruction on Medicinal Marijuana

Washington State University will change its fall curriculum to include instruction on medicinal marijuana for their medical students, The Spokesman-Review recounts. The school will dedicate several hours of instruction on Washington's laws concerning medical cannabis, qualifying conditions, and advising patients. This new coursework aims to mediate knowledge between healthcare providers and consultants in retail shops, and help doctors become more comfortable discussing the treatment. Washington is pioneering the creation of trained “medical consultants,” licensed through the health department and present in shops to counsel patients who are seeking cannabis for therapeutic use. Lead researcher Louise Kaplan will soon publish their first study on medical consultants in the University of Toronto Medical Journal.


Research investigates microstructural brain injuries to comprehend working memory deficits following a mild traumatic brain injury

Researcher S. Chung at the New York University of Medicine is making progress regarding the diagnosis of microstructural injuries linked to working memory impairment. His research, published in the American Journal of Neuroradiology, involved locating biomarkers and evaluating memory performance in patients suffering from mTBI. They found that changes in working memory performance could be due to axonal perturbations occurring post-injury.


Improved motor and cognitive function in mouse model of TBI from new magnetic therapy

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan found that mouse models of traumatic brain injury (TBI) showed improvements in memory, balance, gait, sleep cycle, and increased neuroprotective proteins when given low-intensity magnetic stimulation. Mimicking brain waves with magnetic stimulation just above the surface of the brain has been shown before to effectively elicit changes in the brain. This study goes a step further by showing that with only a 20-minute treatment for four days, the therapy can induce these changes in an animal model that was exposed to repeated brain injury. The next step with this research is longer-term animal model research and then human research into alleviating concussion and TBI symptoms. The study by Sathiya Sekar et al. was published in the Journal of Neurotrauma.


Validation of the Brainscope device, funded by a multi-year Department of Defense contract

An article by Yahoo Finance announced that medical neurotechnology company Brainscope has completed their $9.9 million Department of Defense research contract for the development of the BrainScope Concussion Index. Blinded clinical studies have validated the Concussion Index as a tool to help physicians accurately diagnose concussions in patients ages 13-25. The Concussion Index is an “an EEG-based, multimodal marker for concussion,” which makes use of miniaturized hardware to create a portable device. Chief Scientific Officer of BrainScope, Dr. Leslie Prichep, defines the device as an “objective marker in the clinical assessment of concussion,” with the current goal of aiding young patients, whose developing brains are particularly vulnerable to concussions and secondary injuries.

Mental Health

Blog by Northwestern highlights role of counseling in concussion recovery

The Counseling Staff at Northwestern has provided an article with immediate and long-term responses and treatment to guide concussion sufferers post-injury. Information covered includes what a concussion and its physiological or psychological symptoms are, how to seek help, and even what steps to take to adjust back to a daily routine. For more information, refer to Counseling@Northwestern, the Online Master of Arts in Counseling Program from The Family Institute at Northwestern University.


Prevalence of TBIs in the homeless population

BrainTrust Canada states that 50-60% of homeless people in Canada suffer from TBIs, and this is supported by research showing a high percent of TBIs in homeless populations. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) trigger changes in personality, reaction time, and thought processes, which likely contribute to a descent into homelessness. Additionally, 70% of homeless people acquire their TBI before becoming homeless. BrainTrust Canada is pushing for more support of the homeless population and those at risk of becoming homeless. They are calling for housing support, counseling, as well as medical support, since diet and sleep are some of the most critical factors in concussion recovery.

Women's Health

Women Veterans at increased risk of mTBI from domestic violence

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs highlighted research focused on traumatic brain injuries in women veterans after domestic violence. The work by VA Boston Psychologist Dr. Katherine Iverson, PhD, seeks to help women service members--a third of whom experience intimate partner violence (IPV) and face the severe health problems that may result from assault injuries. Iverson underlines that “women who experience IPV are twice as likely to attempt suicide. They are two to four times more likely to have diagnoses of PTSD and depression and to use alcohol—perhaps as a way of coping with the IPV they experience." These women also face unique challenges related to their service, and Iverson encourages victims to reach out to VA healthcare providers for support.


Mystery in Brain Scans from U.S. Diplomats Experiencing Concussion Symptoms in Cuba

An article from NPR drew attention to the uncanny conditions in which 40 U.S. Cuban Embassy workers developed mild traumatic brain injury symptoms, despite no conspicuous signs of attack. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by radiologist Ragini Verma, Ph.D., used advanced MRI techniques to compare the brains of 48 healthy control subjects with the brains of the government personnel who experienced the mysterious neurological symptoms. The study finds that those who experienced what is vaguely referred to as “potential exposure to directional phenomena,” did indeed have significant brain changes--notably in the cerebellum and tissue connecting brain regions.

Symptoms such as balance problems, headaches, and sensory symptoms initially led researchers to search for concussion-like causes. Verma states, however, that the differences "do not reflect the imaging differences that we see in [traumatic brain injury] or concussion” nor any injury she has seen before.

While the bizarre injuries have led many to speculate causes such as a possible sonic weapon or energy beam, many neuroscientists are skeptical that any attack occurred. Neuroscientists such as Douglas Fields discredit the theories explaining that the lack of clear clinical evidence of pathology or signs of attack could indicate changes in the brain occurring simply due to life experience, rehabilitation treatment, or even IQ. While Verma claims, "All you can say is something happened, which caused their brain to change,” the medical mystery continues to unsettle and divide both the public and brain scientists.


New technology may be able to detect whether or not concussion occurred after a car crash

Science Daily highlighted the development of a tool to predict the probability of whether TBI occurred during a car crash. Professor Samy Missoum and graduate student Saeed Ahmadisoleymani, at the University of Arizona School of Engineering, are using modeling, experimentation, and computational data to create a tool that could help improve paramedic response at the crash site. Their work was published in Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering.

Executive Editor

Concussion Alliance co-founder Malayka Gormally