Brain Injury Research: Traumatic Brain Injury, Acquired Brain Injury and Environmental Brain Disorders

Acquired Brain Injury is one the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in children. It can be secondary to trauma, strokes, tumors, infections, metabolic insults, environmental insults and other causes. These injuries commonly result in childhood neurodevelopmental disabilities, resulting in impairments of cognition, language, behavior and motor abilities.

The Institute's brain injury research programs include both basic science research and clinical research, with scientists in both areas regularly collaborating with each other.

At Kennedy Krieger Institute, our basic science research aims to prevent these brain disorders and to understand their molecular mechanisms in order to develop better remedial interventions. Basic neuroscience research in this area focuses on changes in synaptic plasticity and gene expression induced by trauma and neurotoxins.

Acute trauma causes the ubiquitous neurotransmitter excitatory glutamate to be released into the brain's extracellular space where it can accumulate and damage nearby neurons. The mechanisms for this injury are investigated in experimental models in the laboratory. Associated clinical research studying interventions to modify the acute brain injury and potentially improve long-term outcome is done in collaboration with Critical Care Medicine and the Trauma service at Johns Hopkins Hospital and other national centers.

The mechanisms for the effect of these toxins on the developing brain are being examined in experimental laboratory models. Recent discoveries have identified mechanisms for effects of severe poisoning, such as brain swelling, as well as for more subtle but enduring effects on intelligence.

The clinical brain injury research program has multiple foci of interest and investigation, including the following:

  • Utility of early trauma variables in predicting outcome after traumatic brain injury
  • Effectiveness of acute and chronic intervention techniques
  • Identifying patterns of recovery after brain injury to better target interventions
  • Developing specialized scales to measure recovery and outcome
  • Studying the relationship between brain activity and behavior to more accurately measure, predict and improve the outcomes of brain injuries
  • Use of quantitative brain images to evaluate and predict brain-behavior relationships

Translating Research into Clinical Care:

Our commitment to research allows patients to benefit from the newest innovations and treatment options. Translating science to the bedside improves long-term patient outcomes and heightens understanding of the mechanisms of brain injury.