Traumatic brain injury results in cellular, structural and functional changes resembling motor neuron disease

David K. Wright, Shijie Liu, Chris Van Der Poel, Stuart J. McDonald, Rhys D. Brady, Lily Taylor, Li Yang, Andrew J. Gardner, Roger Ordidge, Terence J. O'Brien, Leigh A. Johnston, Sandy R. Shultz

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36 Citations (Scopus)


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been suggested to increase the risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). However, this link remains controversial and as such, here we performed experimental moderate TBI in rats and assessed for the presence of ALS-like pathological and functional abnormalities at both 1 and 12 weeks post-injury. Serial in-vivo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) demonstrated that rats given a TBI had progressive atrophy of the motor cortices and degeneration of the corticospinal tracts compared with sham-injured rats. Immunofluorescence analyses revealed a progressive reduction in neurons, as well as increased phosphorylated transactive response DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) and cytoplasmic TDP- 43, in the motor cortex of rats given a TBI. Rats given a TBI also had fewer spinal cord motor neurons, increased expression of muscle atrophy markers, and altered muscle fiber contractile properties compared with sham-injured rats at 12 weeks, but not 1 week, post-injury. All of these changes occurred in the presence of persisting motor deficits. These findings resemble some of the pathological and functional abnormalities common in ALS and support the notion that TBI can result in a progressive neurodegenerative disease process pathologically bearing similarities to a motor neuron disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4503-4515
Number of pages13
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Animal model
  • MRI
  • Neurodegeneration
  • TDP-43

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