More than 2.5 million people in the United States alone experience a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, each year.
Some of these people are plagued by a seemingly unrelated cascade of health issues for years after their head injury, including fatigue, depression, anxiety, memory issues, and sleep disturbances.
In a new study, researchers found how a TBI triggers a reduction in growth hormone secretion and why most TBI patients improve after growth hormone replacement treatment.
They defined the condition as brain injury associated fatigue and altered cognition, or BIAFAC.
The research was conducted by a team at The University of Texas and elsewhere.
Previous research has shown that TBI triggers a long-term reduction in growth hormone, or GH, a secretion that is linked with BIAFAC.
Most TBI patients experience dramatic symptom relief with GH replacement therapy, but the symptoms return if the treatment stops.
The researchers are trying to better understand BIAFAC and exactly how and why GH replacement works so well in order to develop new interventions.
They examined 18 people with a history of mild TBI and inadequate GH secretion.
They showed that GH replacement was linked with increased lean body mass and decreased fat mass as well as reduced fatigue, anxiety, depression and sleep disturbance.
It was also found, for the first time, that these improvements were linked to better brain networks that have been previously associated with GH deficiency.
They also noted increases in both gray and white matter in frontal brain regions, the “core communications center of the brain,” that could be related to cognitive improvements.
The results also showed that people with TBI-related fatigue and altered cognition also have different fecal bacterial communities than the control group.
This suggests that supplementing or replacing the dysbiotic intestinal communities may help to ease the symptoms experienced after TBI.
The team says because these symptoms can manifest months to years after the initial injury and as this cluster of symptoms hasn’t been previously grouped together, it often goes unidentified in the medical community.
One author of the study is Dr. Randall Urban.
The study is published in the Journal of Neurotrauma.
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