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Women may struggle more to recover from mild brain injury

Everyone is different, so it makes sense that no one person reacts to a brain injury the exact same way. Some people seem to be more vulnerable to brain trauma, or suffer symptoms for a longer period of time.

Some of this could be the luck of the genetic draw, but perhaps someday we will be able to predict how severely a traumatic brain injury will affect someone based on that person’s ethnicity or gender. For instance, a new study discussed in Diagnostic Imaging suggests that women might need more time to recover from minor brain injuries than men.

The study focused on minor traumatic brain injury, or MTBI. These are relatively minor blows to the head that nevertheless require a trip to the emergency room. Researchers selected 15 men and 15 women who had been diagnosed with MTBI at the ER within the previous month, and added 15 of each gender for control.

The volunteers underwent digital span and continuous performance testing, which measure short-term memory and ability to focus, and had MRIs taken of their brains. They then returned six weeks later for a follow-up.

In the end, researchers found no difference in the scores for the men who had sustained an MTBI and males who had not. But women who had suffered an MTBI scored worse on the digit span test than the women in the control group. And the MRIs showed that the women’s brains did not recover after six weeks as well as the men’s brains did.

Anything that can assess the likely prognosis for a TBI sufferer will help doctors devise a treatment plan, which could improve recovery efforts.

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