A storm in the brain - analysing brain network disruptions after mild traumatic brain injury

PhD Project

Mild Traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is a major health challenge which is difficult to diagnose and treat. The major conundrum in mTBI research is that there is often no relationship between the location or extent of the injuries and subsequent symptoms. This project seeks to find the missing link between the brain’s functional deficits and structural damage after mTBI.

Our focus is on brain vascular damage, which has not received much attention. Specifically, we will investigate the role of brain vascular cells called pericytes on –

  1. How it causes local brain vascular damage
  2. How this is later expressed as functional deficits after mTBI

This will be done by developing an experimentally informed multiscale model of the brain connectivity network that can link localised damages in the brain with global functional deficits. We will use our own mTBI dataset that we collected with rugby players from Gisborne to develop and validate the model. We will also perform in-vitro cell experiments with human brain cells to characterise which key cellular pathways are involved in pericyte-mediated vascular damage. This will inform our brain network connectivity model to find the link between structural damage and functional deficits, for the first time.

Desired skills

  • Strong computational skills to develop finite element models and network models of the brains of rugby players
  • Knowledge in medical images to process advanced magnetic resonance images of the brains of rugby players
  • Knowledge in the latest statistical and machine learning based approaches for analysing a large dataset

Contact and supervisors

For more information or to apply for this project, please follow the link to the supervisors below: