Neuroimaging and traumatic brain injury: State of the field and voids in translational knowledge

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and disability in every developed country in the world and is believed to be a risk factor in the later development of depression, anxiety disorders and neurodegenerative diseases including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Alzheimer's Disease (AD), Parkinson's Disease (PD), and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). One challenge faced by those who conduct research into TBI is the lack of a verified and validated biomarker that can be used to diagnose TBI or for use as a prognostic variable which can identify those at risk for poor recovery following injury or at risk for neurodegeneration later in life. Neuroimaging continues to hold promise as a TBI biomarker but is limited by a lack of clear relationship between the neuropathology of injury/recovery and the quantitative and image based data that is obtained. Specifically lacking is the data on biochemical and biologic changes that lead to alterations in neuroimaging markers. There are multiple routes towards developing the knowledge required to more definitively link pathology to imaging but the most efficient approach is expanded leveraging of in vivo human blood, serum, and imaging biomarkers with both in vivo and ex vivo animal findings.This review describes the current use and limitations of imaging in TBI including a discussion of currently used animal injury models and the available animal imaging data and extracted markers that hold the greatest promise for helping translate alterations in imaging back to injury pathology. Further, it reviews both the human and animal TBI literature supporting current standards, identifies the remaining voids in the literature, and briefly highlights recent advances in molecular imaging. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Traumatic Brain Injury'.

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