Several Perron Institute researchers have contributed to another recent research paper which has received national and international attention.

Led by Monash University, the study published in the journal Scientific Reports by Associate Professor Bridgette Semple found that repeated concussions resulted in thicker, denser bones in the skull.

“It is unclear whether this thickening of the skull is good or bad,” Associate Professor Semple said. “This is a bit of a conundrum. As we know, repeated concussions can have negative consequences on brain structure and function. Regardless, concussion is never a good thing.”

In this new study, high-resolution neuroimaging and tissue staining techniques were used in a preclinical model and revealed an increase in bone thickness and density near the injury site.

“We have been ignoring the potential influence of the skull in how concussive impacts can affect the brain,” Associate Professor Semple said. “These new findings highlight that the skull may be an important factor that affects the consequences of repeated concussions for individuals.”

Concussion is a form of mild traumatic brain injury, and repeated concussions have been linked to long-term neurological consequences. Most studies focus on understanding how these head injuries affect the brain and its function, but they largely ignore the overlying skull bones that protect the brain. Although bones are considered a mostly structural component of the human body, bones are in fact active living tissues that can respond to applied mechanical forces.

Professor Melinda (Lindy) Fitzgerald (head of Neurotrauma Research at Curtin University and the Perron Institute) collaborated on the study with another member of her team, postdoctoral researcher Dr Chidozie Anyaegbu, and a previous Research Associate, Dr Yilin Mao.

Professor Fitzgerald has previously shown that repeated concussive impacts lead to subtle problems with memory and evidence of brain damage.

The first author of the paper is Larissa Dill (pictured), Research Officer in the Motor Neurone Disease Genetics and Therapeutics Research group at the Perron Institute and the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Innovative Therapeutics at Murdoch University. She moved to Perth from Melbourne after being based in Associate Professor Semple’s lab for a few years. This is her first publication as first-author, and she says they have been working on the paper and pilot data as a labour of love for the past few years.

“I’m excited to see this work published,” she said. “It’s an interesting, novel path of investigation and I hope more research follows in this area.”

Future studies are planned, with collaborator and bone expert Professor Natalie Sims from St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, to understand if a thickened skull resulting from repeated concussions directly alters the vulnerable brain tissue underneath.

Article based on a media release by Monash University.