Although numerous studies have been carried out to investigate the pathophysiology of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), there are still no standard criteria for the diagnosis and treatment of this peculiar condition. The dominant theory that diffuse axonal injury is the main neuropathological process behind mTBI is being revealed as weak at best or inconclusive, given the current literature and the fact that neuronal injury inherent to mTBI improves, with few lasting clinical sequelae in the vast majority of patients.
Clinical and experimental evidence suggests that such a course, rather than being due to cell death, is based on temporal neuronal dysfunction, the inevitable consequence of complex biochemical and neurochemical cascade mechanisms directly and immediately triggered by the traumatic insult.
This report is an attempt to summarize data from a long series of experiments conducted in the authors' laboratories and published during the past 12 years, together with an extensive analysis of the available literature, focused on understanding the biochemical damage produced by an mTBI.
The overall clinical implications, as well as the metabolic nature of the post-mTBI brain vulnerability, are discussed. Finally, the application of proton MR spectroscopy as a possible tool to monitor the full recovery of brain metabolic functions is emphasized.