Concussion Cure

Associate professor Changiz Taghibiglou (left) and Dr. Yanbo Zhang are researching new therapies for concussion in the College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan

Concussion symptoms — such as loss of balance, hazy comprehension, sleep disturbance and inability to walk straight — can be reversed by a new type of magnetic stimulation, research at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) shows.

Magnetic stimulation using a laptop-style device for 20 minutes per day improved the ability of rodents with a concussion to walk in a straight line, navigate a maze, run on a wheel and perform cognitive tests. “Concussion is a major health concern affecting all sections of society,” said Professor Changiz Taghibiglou, who led the research. “The beauty of this therapy is not only that it is effective, but that it is non-invasive, easy to use and cost-effective. The USask team also found evidence that low-frequency magnetic stimulation could potentially protect the brain from future degeneration, a risk following serious concussions.

Within four days of treatment, mice with repeated concussion had their ability to perform a variety of cognition and motor tests restored to almost normal levels. Their body clocks, which govern sleep patterns and can be thrown out of sync by concussion, were also restored to their normal function. Mice with concussion that had not been treated were unable to perform the behavioural and neurological tasks, which included running on a wheel without falling off.

Taghibiglou also found that certain proteins, which are important to protect the brain from various neurological conditions, were restored to their normal level by the low-frequency magnetic stimulation. The proteins protect neurons and halt the progression of post-concussion inflammation and neurodegeneration. Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to adverse effects of brain injuries, as their brains are still developing into their early 20s.

“Traumatic brain injury poses significant challenges to patients, families and health professionals,” said Dr. Yanbo Zhang professor of psychiatry in USask’s College of Medicine, and co-author of the paper. “Patients can suffer long-lasting cognitive impairments, emotional and behavioural changes. Currently, we do not have effective treatment to improve the cognitive impairment. Low-frequency magnetic stimulation provides a novel option for concussion treatment.” For rodeo and equine-related athletes, the ramifications of this critical research will, literally, be life-changing.

As such, Taghibiglou said in an interview with Canadian Cowboy Country that “research from the ground-breaking team has found that if a person is treated anywhere from one day to one week post-concussion, they will be fine.”

The renowned medical team is looking for volunteers to continue its concussion research and is very interested in helping rodeo athletes. For more info, contact Research Services at the University of Saskatchewan.