J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2012 Nov;18(6):1006-18.
After traumatic injury the brain undergoes a prolonged period of degenerative change that is paradoxically accompanied by cognitive recovery. The spatiotemporal pattern of atrophy and the specific relationships of atrophy to cognitive changes are ill understood. The present study used tensor based morphometry and neuropsychological testing to examine brain volume loss in 17 TBI patients and 13 controls over a four year period. Patients were scanned at two months, one year and four years post-injury. High-dimensional warping procedures were used to create change maps of each subject’s brain for each of the two intervals. TBI patients experienced volume loss in both cortical areas and white matter regions during the first interval. Furthermore, we observed continuing volume loss in extensive regions of white matter during the second interval. Neuropsychological correlations indicated that cognitive tasks were associated with subsequent volume loss in task-relevant regions. The extensive volume loss in brain white matter observed well beyond the first year post-injury suggests that the injured brain remains malleable for an extended period, and the neuropsychological relationships suggest that this volume loss may be associated with subtle cognitive improvements.