Front Hum Neurosci. 2023 Jul 19;17:1208498. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2023.1208498. eCollection 2023.
INTRODUCTION: Repetitive subconcussive head impacts can lead to subtle neural changes and functional consequences on brain health. However, the objective assessment of these changes remains limited. Resting state blink-related oscillations (BROs), recently discovered neurological responses following spontaneous blinking, are explored in this study to evaluate changes in BRO responses in subconcussive head impacts.
METHODS: We collected 5-min resting-state electroencephalography (EEG) data from two cohorts of collegiate athletes who were engaged in contact sports (SC) or non-contact sports (HC). Video recordings of all on-field activities were conducted to determine the number of head impacts during games and practices in the SC group.
RESULTS: In both groups, we were able to detect a BRO response. Following one season of games and practice, we found a strong association between the number of head impacts sustained by the SC group and increases in delta and beta spectral power post-blink. There was also a significant difference between the two groups in the morphology of BRO responses, including decreased peak-to-peak amplitude of response over left parietal channels and differences in spectral power in delta and alpha frequency range post-blink.
DISCUSSION: Our preliminary results suggest that the BRO response may be a useful biomarker for detecting subtle neural changes resulting from repetitive head impacts. The clinical utility of this biomarker will need to be validated through further research with larger sample sizes, involving both male and female participants, using a longitudinal design.