A news release from McMaster University reports that people who experience minor head injuries or injuries to other parts of their bodies can experience post-concussion-like syndromes, with symptoms including headaches, dizziness, cognitive impairment, and other neuropsychiatric indications such as irritability, anxiety, and insomnia. A study published recently in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity may provide some answers to why this occurs, the release continues.

Michel Rathbone, MD, CHB, PhD, FRCPC, a professor of medicine at McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and a lead author of the paper, notes in the release that such post-concussion syndrome patients have inflammation in common. Rather than using the term “concussion,” he continues, he and the rest of the research team would like to propose a new, unifying umbrella term: “post-inflammatory brain syndromes,” or PIBS.

The study will encourage scientists to open new lines of research into understanding the cause of post-concussion syndrome in the absence of an obvious brain injury on conventional imaging, he adds in the release, and into treatment of the symptoms by targeting inflammatory mediators. For example, he notes, people who have a very subtle genetic change in a certain inflammatory protein have a poorer recovery after experiencing a brain injury.

The release reports the finding that inflammation is common in post-concussion-like syndrome also explains why many social factors appear to play a role in the development of symptoms.

“We know that the immune system can be modulated, or sensitized by the current and even the previous environment an individual was in,” Rathbone explains. “These social factors, such as pre-existing stressors, depression, or anxiety, may actually be, in a way, biological factors.”

Rathbone adds that the research could provide hope for those with cognitive dysfunction after major infections, surgeries, and traumas, because it suggests that current and future treatments for concussion could be beneficial for them.

“This research opens many doors for so many different patients. We are excited to be starting a totally new approach to the field, and we look forward to making a difference for the patients of the future,” he concludes.

[Sources: Science Daily, McMaster University]