Biomarkers for brain concussion

Project Details

Brain concussion, a common form of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), is a serious medical and societal issue. Of particular concern are individuals who are at high risk of suffering multiple concussions – such as athletes playing collision sports – because repeated concussions may contribute to chronic neurological impairments and neurodegenerative disease. There is evidence that the long-term adverse effects of repeated concussion are due to the recurring insults occurring before the brain has recovered from the initial concussion and is in a period of increased cerebral vulnerability (ICV). Currently there are no reliable markers that indicate when the brain is no longer in this state of ICV, but the identification of such biomarkers would allow them to be used to guide medical decisions, so as to mitigate the effects of repeated concussion.  

There are a number of promising concussion biomarker platforms. Physical, psychological, and cognitive symptoms are common after concussion, and symptom scales and neuropsychological testing are currently used in concussion management. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive tool that may identify changes in the brain after a concussion, and be used to monitor the recovery of these changes. Blood samples can be used to measure markers that may provide information about the pathophysiology, progression, and recovery of concussion. While each of these platforms has potential as a concussion management tool, more detailed studies are required to characterise and validate the reliability of these methods in diagnosing concussion, determining recovery, and preventing the effects of repeated concussion. However, due to the relatively mild effects of a single concussion, the progressive and chronic nature of the effects of repeated concussions, and other confounding factors, it is difficult to study this in humans. Thus, an animal model of concussion is a means to conduct rigorous, invasive, and time- and cost-sensitive studies, and to inform for an evidence-based translation of these findings to the human setting.  

Our outstanding multi-disciplinary and internationally renowned team will employ a translational research approach that incorporates a novel animal model and human studies to identify, validate, and implement multimodal MRI, blood, and neuropsychological biomarkers of concussion in both sexes. We use a unique rat model of concussion and also have unique access to male and female professional and amateur athletes from Australian sports with a high incidence of concussion. Our innovative studies will advance the understanding of mTBI, identify practical biomarkers of concussion, and may transform the clinical management of these injuries worldwide.


  • David Wright, NIF Fellow, PhD Student
  • Steven Mutimer, Masters Student


  • Dr. Andrew Gardner and Professor Peter Stanwell, University of Newcastle, Australia
  • Professor Andrew Kaye (Department of Surgery), Professor Terence O'Brien (Department of Medicnce) & Professor Patricia Desmond (Department of Radiology), The University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Professor Leigh Johnston and David Wright, Florey Neuroscience Institutes, The University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Professor Denes Agoston, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, USA
  • Prof. Grant Iverson, Harvard University, USA


  • Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
  • The Melbourne Neuroscience Institute
  • The University of Melbourne

Research Group

Translational Traumatic Brain Injury Laboratory

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Neuroscience & Psychiatry

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Medicine and Radiology

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