by Maddie Adamczyk, Junior, Hampton
On Saturday afternoon after the dismissal of the plenary session on human rights, the delegates picked up boxed lunches and were gathered in breakout groups based upon interest. One group of thirty or more delegates headed to the UPMC sports medicine facility to engage in discussion on developing research to diagnose traumatic brain injuries.
Dr. Walter Schneider, a professor of Psychology and Neurosurgery & Radiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, started his lecture with the relevant but relatively unknown fact that head trauma is now the leading cause of death for people under the age of forty-five across the world. He works specifically with traumatic brain injury patients and these severe cases account for half of all trauma-related deaths.
Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, affects 1.7 million people annually. Yet, at traditional U.S. hospitals most CT scans of these patients’ brains show no detectable damage or clinical information beyond management of swelling. Thus, many people go undiagnosed.
A new cutting edge, non-invasive imaging technique known as High Definition Fiber Tracking shows damage not visible by past methods. The High Definition Fiber Tracking technology provides tracking of the brain and its connectivity. It allows doctors to map out the brain in a virtual dissection of the eight major segmented tracts, such as the corpus callosum. People who have experienced trauma will have a loss of axons on either side of the brain causing asymmetry. Through this virtual map, doctors can see the axons and where the lack of symmetry is. Doctors use this to detect how much connectivity the patients have lost and how to best counsel patients in the recovery process. Before High Definition Fiber Tracking, it was impossible for doctors to be able to tell if there were enough cables and wirings for patients to be rehabilitated. Now, since the technological advancements are available, doctors at UPMC can give patients and their families a case report to see damage and plan physical therapy.
This new research evidence as a whole can be attributed to the colossal efforts of the University of Pittsburgh’s Trauma Research Center all in a matter of only two years. This research demonstrates a global effort as it was pursued with an international team of scientists and doctors from Germany, Nigeria, India, Taiwan, Spain, Venezuela, and China. Despite the fact that it will take Dr. Schneider and his team five to ten years to perfect their research and make it available to public hospitals they have already conducted seventy-four tests for patients with TBI and have pharmaceutical companies interested in investing.
This is a promising research study and should be made a global procedure. Delegates asked questions and expressed their astonishment with the efforts of this international team. One delegate commented that every time he met with American professors he became excited that they were always willing to share their advancements with the world and global community. Dr. Schneider replied that because of America’s “immigrant culture, they are willing to work with whoever.” This research cannot be kept to one country. Our world is changing every day and we need to be able to share ideas with the world.