Thesis examines how sexes differently experience and recover from brain injury

katienealeMore than 160,000 Canadians annually experience some form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). However, while TBI affects people of all sexes, most studies do not include female participants.

Katie Neale (Division of Medical Sciences, Neuroscience Graduate Program) aims to help close this data gap with her MSc thesis, which she will remotely defend on June 25, 2020. Titled “Sex Differences in Hippocampal Cell Proliferation and Inflammation Following Repeated Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in Adolescent Rats,” Neale’s work examines how the sexes each experience brain injury. 

“A greater understanding of how sex differences contribute to the heterogeneity of this disease is critical for clinical care and potential treatments,” she writes in her abstract.

Neale found that the brains of both sexes become inflamed immediately after repeated mild TBI. After that initial inflammation, though, adolescent male brains experience a significant increase in the number of cells in the hippocampus—specifically, in the region where adult neurogenesis (i.e., the creation of new neurons) occurs. Adolescent female brains, on the other hand, do not experience this level of increase.

Neale’s work specifically focuses on the hippocampus, a region of the brain known for its role in learning and memory. Further investigation could explain how the post-TBI cellular increase – or lack thereof –positively or negatively effects those functions.