Research Reports - Environmental enrichment may protect against hippocampal atrophy in the chronic stages of traumatic brain injury

Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Sep 24;7:506

Miller LS, Colella B, Mikulis D, Maller J, Green RE

Objective: To examine the relationship between environmental enrichment (EE) and
hippocampal atrophy in the chronic stages of moderate to severe traumatic brain
injury (TBI). Design: Retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data;
observational, within-subjects. Participants: Patients (N = 25) with moderate to
severe TBI. Measures: Primary predictors: (1) An aggregate of self-report rating
of EE (comprising hours of cognitive, physical, and social activities) at 5
months post-injury; (2) pre-injury years of education as a proxy for pre-morbid
EE (or cognitive reserve). Primary outcome: bilateral hippocampal volume change
from 5 to 28 months post-injury. Results: As predicted, self-reported EE was
significantly negatively correlated with bilateral hippocampal atrophy (p <
0.05), with greater EE associated with less atrophy from 5 to 28 months. Contrary
to prediction, years of education (a proxy for cognitive reserve) was not
significantly associated with atrophy. Conclusion: Post-injury EE may serve as a
buffer against hippocampal atrophy in the chronic stages of moderate-severe TBI.
Clinical application of EE should be considered for optimal maintenance of
neurological functioning in the chronic stages of moderate-severe TBI.

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