For many graduate students, myself included, conferences and symposiums are little more than an opportunity to stuff your face with free food, nervously defend your most bewildering preliminary data, and awkwardly attempt what socially adept people call “networking”.
However, last week’s TBI symposium was different. It offered attendees a crash course on what scientists and clinicians from around the country were learning about TBI.
Being brand new to the research world of traumatic brain injury, or TBI for short, this was just what the doctor ordered.
The symposium, aptly named “From Research to Recovery” was divided into two days. The first focused on the latest findings from TBI research, while the second concentrated on evaluation and treatment interventions.
Dr. Jamshid Ghajar, a clinician and researcher from Stanford University, was the keynote speaker for the research portion.
He explained the lack of a universal diagnostic criteria for assessing concussions (a mild form of TBI) and shared how his research on visual attention and orientation could better measure the severity of post-concussive symptoms.
His talk was followed by several OHSU and Portland VA researchers discussing their work on a wide range of related topics.
Dr. Eric Schnell explained how TBIs can counterintuitively increase neurogenesis, but create less effective neurons that are abnormally shaped and poorly integrated in the brain. Researchers from Dr. Fay Horak’s lab shared their work analyzing altered gait and posture following mild TBIs, and how their novel rehabilitation therapy was able to improve patients’ balance.
Drs. Melissa Papesh and Fredrick Gallun examined how TBIs impaired auditory processing in ways that go undetected using normal hearing tests, and provided innovative methods for diagnosing hearing dysfunction using custom developed iPad apps.
Afterwards, I was able to present my own research during a poster session alongside some of the best TBI researchers at OHSU.
The second day featured the recovery aspect of the symposium. Dr. Stanley Herring, from the University of Washington, gave an in-depth breakdown of newly proposed guidelines for concussion treatment.
Dr. Jim Chesnutt provided insights into common mistakes made by physicians while treating concussions, and the day ended with breakout sessions by OHSU’s multi-disciplinary TBI team discussing appropriate methods for evaluating post-concussion symptoms.
Overall, the event provided me with a foundational understanding of the issues and obstacles in TBI research and piqued my curiosity to learn more. There was also plenty of free food.
Nadir Balba is a Ph.D. student in OHSU’s Behavioral Neuroscience department.