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In silico investigation of blast-induced intracranial fluid cavitation as it potentially leads to traumatic brain injury


We conducted computational macroscale simulations predicting blast-induced intracranial fluid cavitation possibly leading to brain injury. To further understanding of this problem, we developed microscale models investigating the effects of blast-induced cavitation bubble collapse within white matter axonal fiber bundles of the brain. We model fiber tracks of myelinated axons whose diameters are statistically representative of white matter. Nodes of Ranvier are modeled as unmyelinated sections of axon. Extracellular matrix envelops the axon fiber bundle, and gray matter is placed adjacent to the bundle. Cavitation bubbles are initially placed assuming an intracranial wave has already produced them. Pressure pulses, of varied strengths, are applied to the upper boundary of the gray matter and propagate through the model, inducing bubble collapse. Simulations, conducted using the shock wave physics code CTH, predict an increase in pressure and von Mises stress in axons downstream of the bubbles after collapse. This appears to be the result of hydrodynamic jetting produced during bubble collapse. Interestingly, results predict axon cores suffer significantly lower shear stresses from proximal bubble collapse than does their myelin sheathing. Simulations also predict damage to myelin sheathing, which, if true, degrades axonal electrical transmissibility and general health of the white matter structures in the brain.

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This work funded through the US Office of Naval Research, T. Bentley, Project funding manager, under Contract No. N0001414IP20020. Sandia National Laboratories is a multimission laboratory managed and operated by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International, Inc., for the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration under contract DE-NA-0003525.

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Correspondence to S. Haniff.

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Communicated by O. Petel and S. Ouellet.

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Haniff, S., Taylor, P.A. In silico investigation of blast-induced intracranial fluid cavitation as it potentially leads to traumatic brain injury. Shock Waves 27, 929–945 (2017).

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  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Microscale model
  • Cavitation
  • Virtual simulation