ABIL June 2016 Conference: Research and Brain Injury – Making a Difference

Positive feedback was received from delegates who attended our June conference and we are grateful to Professor David Sharp and members of his team at Imperial College – Dr Lucia Li and Dr Sara De Simone – and his colleague Dr Mazdak Ghajari from the Dyson School of Design Engineering for providing an insight into their research. This covered a wide range of work – including developing novel approaches to treating cognitive impairment after traumatic brain injury; what role for non-invasive brain stimulation?; improving cognitive function with drugs; and computational modelling of traumatic brain injury to guide helmet design. This all led to a fascinating afternoon.

The scale of the problem

In his presentation on developing novel approaches to treating cognitive impairment after traumatic brain injury, Professor Sharp referred to the scale of the problem:

  • In the developed world TBI is the commonest cause of death and disability in the under 40s
  • £4-5 billion/year in the UK in direct and indirect costs of TBI (see also http://www.abil.co.uk/about-brain-injury-prevalence-and-costs-to-society/
  • around 1/3 of people with moderate TBI and 2/3 with severe TBI do not return to work, which has an impact of around £1 billion/year in lost earnings
  • A 1-5% increase in the rate of patients returning to work would produce annual savings in the UK of ~£21-106 million

Professor Sharp referred to the heterogeneity of causation for cognitive problems, and their effects on people’s lives:

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Need for more investment in brain injury research

He highlighted the need for more investment in brain injury research, in particular to enable bigger studies to be carried out. He cited the use of neuroimaging which can be used to guide the development of new treatments. He said that:

  • We need to justify this investment by a detailed health economic analysis
  • We need to involve pharmaceutical companies
  • And do bigger studies
  • Use (imaging) biomarkers as surrogate outcome measures
  • Target specific disease mechanisms
  • Stratify treatment selection for individual patients
  • Use internet-based home cognitive assessment and intervention (a game changer)
  • Do smaller studies (N of 1)…and work out the basis for treatment response

New TBI Talk Website http://tbitalk.weebly.com/

In addition, Dr Lucia Li provided information about a website that she has set up to make it easy for patients, carers and other interested parties to learn about the research that’s going on in traumatic brain injury. This is regularly updated, well worth checking out and keeping an eye on.