UCLA Awarded Grant for Brain Injury Study

UCLA was awarded a $3.5-million grant Tuesday to study how the brain responds to traumatic injury.

The five-year grant from the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke will fund a collaborative study by the Division of Neurosurgery and the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology.

“There is a traumatic brain injury occurring once every 10 seconds in the United States,” said Donald Becker, chief of neurosurgery. “Traumatic brain injury is an enormous health problem in terms of human suffering, social dysfunctions and economic drain, and is most common in our young people.”

There is no treatment for recovery of brain function following such injuries, he added.


Conventional theories hold that the brain is in a resting state after trauma, but UCLA researches believe that increased glucose levels show the brain is actually in a state of metabolic crisis and trying to repair itself, said David Hovda, associate professor of neurosurgery and of molecular and medical pharmacology.

Brain damage results when blood flow does not deliver the necessary levels of glucose to the brain, he said. “Efficient energy production is lost, and like a car, the brain will stall,” Hovda said.

The study will try to determine how increased levels of glucose affect brain cells using positron emission tomography, or PET scans, he said.