White Matter Correlates of Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries in Women Subjected to Intimate-Partner Violence: A Preliminary Study

Valera EM, Cao A, Pasternak O, Shenton ME, Kubicki M, Makris N, Adra N

J. Neurotrauma 2019 Mar;36(5):661-668

PMID: 29873292


A large proportion (range of 44-75%) of women who experience intimate-partner violence (IPV) have been shown to sustain repetitive mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs) from their abusers. Further, despite requests for research on TBI-related health outcomes, there are currently only a handful of studies addressing this issue and only one prior imaging study that has investigated the neural correlates of IPV-related TBIs. In response, we examined specific regions of white matter microstructure in 20 women with histories of IPV. Subjects were imaged on a 3-Tesla Siemens Magnetom TrioTim scanner using diffusion magnetic resonance imaging. We investigated the association between a score reflecting number and recency of IPV-related mTBIs and fractional anisotropy (FA) in the posterior and superior corona radiata as well as the posterior thalamic radiation, brain regions shown previously to be involved in mTBI. We also investigated the association between several cognitive measures, namely learning, memory, and cognitive flexibility, and FA in the white matter regions of interest. We report a negative correlation between the brain injury score and FA in regions of the posterior and superior corona radiata. We failed to find an association between our cognitive measures and FA in these regions, but the interpretation of these results remains inconclusive due to possible power issues. Overall, these data build upon the small but growing literature demonstrating potential consequences of mTBIs for women experiencing IPV, and further underscore the urgent need for larger and more comprehensive studies in this area.