Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the most common cause of death in childhood, and the majority of fatal cases are due to motor vehicle accidents, falls, sport-related accidents, and child abuse. Rodents and particularly rats became a commonly used animal model of TBI in childhood as well as in adults, and different techniques are described in the literature to induce the brain injury. However, findings reported in the last decade regarding the increased stiffness of brain tissue in young animals, including rats, are not considered in experimental designs of TBI studies, and this may seriously bias the results when TBI effects are compared across different animal ages. In this study, we determined the strain and stress distributions in neonatal (post-natal-day [PND] 13-17) and mature (PND 43 and 90) rat brains during a closed head injury, using age-specific finite element (FE) models. The FE simulations indicated that for identical cortical displacements, the neonatal brain may be exposed to larger peak stress magnitudes compared with a mature brain due to stiller tissue properties in the neonate, as well as larger strain magnitudes due to its smaller size. The brain volume subjected to a certain strain level was greater in the neonate brain compared with the adult models for all indentation depths greater than 1 mm. In conclusion, our present findings allow better design of closed head impact experiments which involve an age factor. Additionally, the larger peak stresses and larger strain volumetric exposures observed in the neonatal brain support the hypothesis that the smaller size and stiffer tissue of the infant brain makes it more susceptible to TBI.
- Finite element model
- Strain and stress distributions
- Tissue mechanical properties
- Traumatic brain injury