Over the course of 12 months, data was collected from thousands of neurological tests on more than 40 pediatric patients with brain injuries using a system developed by researchers at Burke Neurological Institute and utilized in practice by clinicians at Blythedale Children’s Hospital.

“Blythedale is the first hospital in the country to measure outcomes the same way for every child admitted with a brain injury,” said Dr. Jason Carmel, director of research for the Burke-Blythedale Pediatric Neuroscience Research Collaboration. “The long-term goal is to take group-level analysis and make predictive models to answer the question all parents of brain-injured children have, ‘How is my child going to do?’” 

The information gathered informs both clinical care of children with brain injuries and research studies on restoring motor, cognitive and vision function.

Clinicians will be better equipped to understand the trajectory of how children recover from different types of brain injuries - including trauma, anoxia, stroke, tumors and encephalitis. The information is used during interdisciplinary meetings to enable clinicians to target the specific needs of each patient. Dr. William Watson, a neuropsychologist at Blythedale Children’s Hospital, expressed his enthusiasm, “We analyze trends to help us treat and track approaches, educate families about what to expect, and personalize treatments based on what we’re seeing,” he said.

As for advancing research, the ability to access a repository of big data will help scientists learn more about how brain physiology relates to behavioral function. “The hopes are that, together, we can better diagnosis children, and track changes that happen to the brain in natural recovery and therapeutic intervention,” said Dr. Sudhin Shah, scientific director of the Cognitive Recovery Program. “Once it’s put all together, it could help make more accurate prognosis and close gaps in in our understanding of how the brain changes during recovery.”

Entering the second year of the new brain injury tracking system, the Burke-Blythedale Pediatric Neuroscience Research Collaboration has announced that it is moving ahead with publishing their findings. A journey that was years in the making is now coming to fruition based on new understandings for recovery after brain injury. The goal is for clinicians to be able to predict the course of recovery for each patient and for scientists to identify specific brain processes to target to accelerate the recovery of neurological functions.