The alterations of animal behavior after traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be subtle, and their quantitative characterization can present significant methodological challenges. Meeting these challenges is a critical need, because quantitative measures are required in studies that compare the efficacy of different clinical interventions. We developed a battery of assessments to quantify behavioral, motor, and cognitive changes in neonatal piglets with good sensitivity and specificity to the detection of persistent deficits that correlate with axonal injury severity after a rapid non-impact head rotation with a diffuse pattern of axonal injury. The battery of measures developed included open field behaviors of sniffing and moving a toy, locomotion measures of Lempel-Ziv complexity and the probability of remaining in the current location, and a novel metric for evaluating motor performance. Our composite porcine disability score was able to detect brain injury with a sensitivity of 100% and specificity of 85.7% at day +4 post-injury for n=8 injured and n=7 sham piglets and significantly correlated with the percent axonal injury in these animals (day +4: ρ=0.76, p=0.0011). A significant improvement over our previous assessments, this new porcine disability score has potential use in a wide variety of porcine disease and injury models.
cognition; neurobehavioral assessment; pediatric brain injury; porcine; traumatic brain injury
Pigs continue to grow in importance as a tool in neuroscience. However, behavioral tests that have been validated in the rodent model do not translate well to pigs because of their very different responses to behavioral stimuli. We refined metrics for assessing porcine open field behavior to detect a wide spectrum of clinically relevant behaviors in the piglet post-traumatic brain injury (TBI). Female neonatal piglets underwent a rapid non-impact head rotation in the sagittal plane (n=8 evaluable) or were instrumented shams (n=7 evaluable). Open field testing was conducted 1 day prior to injury (day −1) in order to establish an individual baseline for analysis, and at days +1 and +4 after injury. Animals were then killed on day +6 after injury for neuropathological assessment of axonal injury. Injured piglets were less interested in interacting with environmental stimuli and had a lower activity level than did shams. These data were compared with previously published data for axial rotational injuries in neonatal piglets. Acute behavioral outcomes post-TBI showed a dependence on the rotational plane of the brain injury, with animals with sagittal injuries demonstrating a greater level of inactivity and less random usage of the open field space than those with axial injuries. The persistence of axonal injury is also dependent on the rotational plane, with sagittal rotations causing more prolonged injuries than axial rotations. These results are consistent with animal studies, finite element models, and studies of concussions in football, which have all demonstrated differences in injury severity depending upon the direction of head impact rotation.
behavioral assessments; cognitive function; pediatric brain injury; TBI
Cerebral perfusion pressure (CPP) less than 40 mm Hg following pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been associated with increased mortality independent of age, and current guidelines recommend maintaining CPP between 40–60 mm Hg. Although adult TBI studies have observed an increased risk of complications associated with targeting a CPP > 70, we hypothesize that targeting a CPP of 70 mm Hg with the use of phenylephrine early after injury in the immature brain will be neuroprotective.
Animals were randomly assigned to injury with CPP = 70 mm Hg (CPP70) or CPP = 40 mm Hg (CPP40). Diffuse TBI was produced by a single rapid rotation of the head in the axial plane. Cerebral microdialysis, brain tissue oxygen, intracranial pressure, and cerebral blood flow (CBF) were measured 30 min – 6 h post-injury. One hour after injury, CPP was manipulated with the vasoconstrictor phenylephrine. Animals were euthanized 6 h post-TBI, brains fixed, and stained to assess regions of cell injury and axonal dysfunction.
21 four week-old female swine.
Measurements and Main Results
Augmentation of CPP to 70 mm Hg resulted in no change in axonal dysfunction, but significantly smaller cell injury volumes at 6 hours post injury compared to CPP40 (1.1% vs. 7.4%, p < 0.05). Microdialysis lactate/pyruvate ratios were improved at CPP70 compared to CPP40. CBF was higher in the CPP70 group but did not reach statistical significance. Phenylephrine was well tolerated and there were no observed increases in serum lactate or intracranial pressure in either group.
Targeting a CPP of 70 mm Hg resulted in a greater reduction in metabolic crisis and cell injury volumes compared to a CPP of 40 mm Hg in an immature swine model. Early aggressive CPP augmentation to a CPP of 70 mm Hg in pediatric TBI before severe intracranial hypertension has the potential to be neuroprotective, and further investigations are needed.
pediatric head injury; cerebral perfusion pressure; phenylephrine; neuroprotection; swine; cerebral blood flow
Small animal models have been used in traumatic brain injury (TBI) research to investigate the basic mechanisms and pathology of TBI. Unfortunately, successful TBI investigations in small animal models have not resulted in marked improvements in clinical outcomes of TBI patients.
To develop a clinically relevant immature large animal model of pediatric neurocritical care following TBI.
Eleven 4 week old piglets were randomized to either rapid axial head rotation without impact (N=6) or instrumented sham (N=5). All animals had an intracranial pressure monitor, brain tissue oxygen (PbtO2) probe, and cerebral microdialysis probe placed in the frontal lobe and data collected for 6 h following injury.
Injured animals had sustained elevations in intracranial pressure and lactate-pyruvate ratio (LPR), and decreased PbtO2 compared to sham. PbtO2 and LPR from separate frontal lobes had strong linear correlation in both sham and injured animals. Neuropathologic examination demonstrated significant axonal injury and infarct volumes in injured animals compared to sham at 6 hours post-injury. Averaged over time, PbtO2 in both injured and sham animals had a strong inverse correlation with total injury volume. Average LPR had a strong correlation with total injury volume.
LPR and PbtO2 can be utilized as serial non-terminal secondary markers in our injury model for neuropathology, and as evaluation metrics for novel interventions and therapeutics in the acute post-injury period. This translational model bridges a vital gap in knowledge between TBI studies in small animal models and clinical trials in the pediatric TBI population.
neurocritical care monitoring; pediatric head injury; swine; TBI model
For stroke and spinal cord injury, folic acid supplementation has been shown to enhance neurodevelopment and to provide neuroprotection. We hypothesized that folic acid would reduce brain injury and improve neurological outcome in a neonatal piglet model of traumatic brain injury (TBI), using 4 experimental groups of 3- to 5-day-old female piglets. Two groups were intubated, anesthetized and had moderate brain injury induced by rapid axial head rotation without impact. One group of injured (Inj) animals received folic acid (Fol; 80 μg/kg) by intraperitoneal (IP) injection 15 min following injury, and then daily for 6 days (Inj + Fol; n = 7). The second group of injured animals received an IP injection of saline (Sal) at the same time points (Inj + Sal; n = 8). Two uninjured (Uninj) control groups (Uninj + Fol, n = 8; Uninj + Sal, n = 7) were intubated, anesthetized and received folic acid (80 μg/kg) or saline by IP injection at the same time points as the injured animals following a sham procedure. Animals underwent neurobehavioral and cognitive testing on days 1 and 4 following injury to assess behavior, memory, learning and problem solving. Serum folic acid and homocysteine levels were collected prior to injury and again before euthanasia. The piglets were euthanized 6 days following injury, and their brains were perfusion fixed for histological analysis. Folic acid levels were significantly higher in both Fol groups on day 6. Homocysteine levels were not affected by treatment. On day 1 following injury, the Inj + Fol group showed significantly more exploratory interest, and better motor function, learning and problem solving compared to the Inj + Sal group. Inj + Fol animals had a significantly lower cognitive composite dysfunction score compared to all other groups on day 1. These functional improvements were not seen on day 4 following injury. Axonal injury measured by β-amyloid precursor protein staining 6 days after injury was not affected by treatment. These results suggest that folic acid may enhance early functional recovery in this piglet model of pediatric head injury. This is the first study to describe the application of complex functional testing to assess an intervention outcome in a swine model of TBI.
Neuroprotection; Folic acid; Traumatic brain injury; Neurobehavioral assessment; Pediatric brain injury; Axonal injury; Swine
Rotational inertial forces are thought to be the underlying mechanism for most severe brain injuries. However, little is known about the effect of head rotation direction on injury outcomes, particularly in the pediatric population. Neonatal piglets were subjected to a single non-impact head rotation in the horizontal, coronal, or sagittal direction, and physiological and histopathological responses were observed. Sagittal rotation produced the longest duration of unconsciousness, highest incidence of apnea, and largest intracranial pressure increase, while coronal rotation produced little change, and horizontal rotation produced intermediate and variable derangements. Significant cerebral blood flow reductions were observed following sagittal but not coronal or horizontal injury compared to sham. Subarachnoid hemorrhage, ischemia, and brainstem pathology were observed in the sagittal and horizontal groups but not in a single coronal animal. Significant axonal injury occurred following both horizontal and sagittal rotations. For both groups, the distribution of injury was greater in the frontal and parietotemporal lobes than in the occipital lobes, frequently occurred in the absence of ischemia, and did not correlate with regional cerebral blood flow reductions. We postulate that these direction-dependent differences in injury outcomes are due to differences in tissue mechanical loading produced during head rotation.
animal models; brain ischemia; brain trauma; cerebral blood flow; neuropathology; subarachnoid hemorrhage
We used a nonimpact inertial rotational model of a closed head injury in neonatal piglets to simulate the conditions following traumatic brain injury in infants. Diffuse optical techniques, including diffuse reflectance spectroscopy and diffuse correlation spectroscopy (DCS), were used to measure cerebral blood oxygenation and blood flow continuously and noninvasively before injury and up to 6 h after the injury. The DCS measurements of relative cerebral blood flow were validated against the fluorescent microsphere method. A strong linear correlation was observed between the two techniques (R = 0.89, p < 0.00001). Injury-induced cerebral hemodynamic changes were quantified, and significant changes were found in oxy- and deoxy-hemoglobin concentrations, total hemoglobin concentration, blood oxygen saturation, and cerebral blood flow after the injury. The diffuse optical measurements were robust and also correlated well with recordings of vital physiological parameters over the 6-h monitoring period, such as mean arterial blood pressure, arterial oxygen saturation, and heart rate. Finally, the diffuse optical techniques demonstrated sensitivity to dynamic physiological events, such as apnea, cardiac arrest, and hypertonic saline infusion. In total, the investigation corraborates potential of the optical methods for bedside monitoring of pediatric and adult human patients in the neurointensive care unit.
diffuse correlation spectroscopy (DCS); diffuse reflectance spectroscopy (DRS); cerebral hemodynamics; cerebral blood flow; traumatic brain injury; near—infrared spectroscopy (NIRS)
Closed head injury is the leading cause of death in children less than 4 years of age, and is thought to be caused in part by rotational inertial motion of the brain. Injury patterns associated with inertial rotations are not well understood in the pediatric population. To characterize the physiological and pathological responses of the immature brain to inertial forces and their relationship to neurological development, toddler-age (4-week-old) piglets were subjected to a single non-impact head rotation at either low (31.6 ± 4.7 rad/sec2, n = 4) or moderate (61.0 ± 7.5 rad/sec2, n = 6) angular acceleration in the axial direction. Graded outcomes were observed for both physiological and histopathological responses such that increasing angular acceleration and velocity produced more severe responses. Unlike low-acceleration rotations, moderate-acceleration rotations produced marked EEG amplitude suppression immediately post-injury, which remained suppressed for the 6-h survival period. In addition, significantly more severe subarachnoid hemorrhage, ischemia, and axonal injury by β-amyloid precursor protein (β-APP) were observed in moderate-acceleration animals than low-acceleration animals. When compared to infant-age (5-day-old) animals subjected to similar (54.1 ± 9.6 rad/sec2) acceleration rotations, 4-week-old moderate-acceleration animals sustained similar severities of subarachnoid hemorrhage and axonal injury at 6 h post-injury, despite the larger, softer brain in the older piglets. We conclude that the traditional mechanical engineering approach of scaling by brain mass and stiffness cannot explain the vulnerability of the infant brain to acceleration-deceleration movements, compared with the toddler.
axonal injury; pediatric head injury; pig; toddler
The purpose of this study was to develop a more efficient fluorescent microsphere method to facilitate the rapid use of the histological technique and to enable its use in large tissue regions. Using fluorescent plate/slide imaging technology and automated detection and analysis software, we were able to rapidly image, detect, and count 3 separate microsphere colors in 200 μm-thick tissue sections from piglet brain. In resting newborn piglets (n = 6) on isoflurane anesthesia, we measured a median total cerebral blood flow (CBF) of 105 ml/min/100g (range 27–206 ml/min/100g). Compared with other FM analysis methods, our method reduces the time required to determine blood flow, improves accuracy in lipid-rich tissues and large tissue regions and, unlike the radiolabeled microsphere method, can be combined with histological analysis.
cerebral blood flow; fluorescent microspheres; pig
Cumulative effects of repetitive mild head injury in the pediatric population are unknown. We have developed a cognitive composite dysfunction score that correlates white matter injury severity in neonatal piglets with neurobehavioral assessments of executive function, memory, learning, and problem solving. Anesthetized 3- to 5-day-old piglets were subjected to single (n = 7), double one day apart (n = 7), and double one week apart (n = 7) moderate (190 rad/s) rapid non-impact axial rotations of the head and compared to instrumented shams (n = 7). Animals experiencing two head rotations one day apart had a significantly higher mortality rate (43%) compared to the other groups and had higher failures rates in visual-based problem solving compared to instrumented shams. White matter injury, assessed by β-APP staining, was significantly higher in the double one week apart group compared to that with single injury and sham. Worsening performance on cognitive composite score correlated well with increasing severity of white matter axonal injury. In our immature large animal model of TBI, two head rotations produced poorer outcome as assessed by neuropathology and neurobehavioral functional outcomes compared to that with single rotations. More importantly, we have observed an increase in injury severity and mortality when the head rotations occur 24 h apart compared to 7 days apart. These observations have important clinical translation to infants subjected to repeated inflicted head trauma.
axonal injury; neurobehavioral assessment; pediatric brain injury; traumatic brain injury
Neurobehavioral deficits in higher cortical systems have not been described previously in a large animal model of diffuse brain injury. Anesthetized 3–5 day old piglets were subjected to either mild (142 rad/sec) or moderate (188 rad/sec) rapid non-impact axial rotations of the head. Multiple domains of cortical function were evaluated 5 times during the 12 day post-injury period using tests of neurobehavioral function devised for piglets. There were no observed differences in neurobehavioral outcomes between mild injury pigs (N = 8) and instrumented shams (N = 4). Moderately injured piglets (N = 7) had significantly lower interest in exploring their environment and had higher failure rates in visual-based problem solving compared to instrumented shams (N = 5) on Day 1 and 4 after injury. Neurobehavioral functional deficits correlated with neuropathologic damage in the neonatal pigs after inertial head injury. Injured axons detected by immunohistochemistry (β-APP) were absent in mild injury and sham piglets, but were observed in moderately injured piglet brains. In summary, we have developed a quantitative battery of neurobehavioral functional assessments for large animals that correlate with neuropathologic axonal damage and may have wide applications in the fields of cardiac resuscitation, stroke, and hypoxic-ischemic brain injury.
head injury; neurobehavioral assessment; axonal injury