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The multi-modal responses of a physical head model subjected to various blast exposure conditions

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The local and global biomechanical response of the body to a blast wave is the first step of a sequence that leads to the development of stresses and strains which can exceed the tolerance of brain tissue. These stresses and strains may then lead to neuro-physical changes in the brain and contribute to initiate a cascade of events leading to injury. The specific biomechanical pathways by which the blast energy is transmitted through the head structure are, however, not clearly understood. Multiple transmission mechanisms have been proposed to explain the generation of brain stresses following the impingement of a blast wave on the head. With the use of a physical head model, the work presented here aims at demonstrating that the proposed transmission mechanisms are not mutually exclusive. They are part of a continuum of head responses where, depending on the exposure conditions, a given mechanism may or may not dominate. This article presents the joint analysis of previous blast test results generated with the brain injury protection evaluation device (BIPED) headform under four significantly different exposure conditions. The focus of the analysis is to demonstrate how the nature of the recorded response is highly dependent on the exposure characteristics and consequently, on the method used to reproduce blast exposure in a laboratory environment. The timing and magnitude of the variations in intra-cranial pressures (ICP) were analysed relative to the external pressure field in order to better understand the wave dynamics occurring within the brain structure of the headform. ICP waveforms were also analysed in terms of their energy spectral density to better identify the energy partitioning between the different modes of response. It is shown that the BIPED response is multi-modal and that the energy partitioning between its different modes of response is greatly influenced by exposure characteristics such as external peak overpressure, impulse, blast wave structure, and direction of propagation. Convincing evidence of stresses generated from local skull deformation is presented along with evidence of stress transmission through relative brain-to-skull motion. These findings suggest that research aimed at defining exposure thresholds should not focus on a single stress transmission mechanism or use experimental designs unrepresentative of realistic blast loading conditions that may favour a given mechanism over another.

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  • 22 December 2017

    The second author name was published with incorrect spelling. It should read as M. Philippens. The original article was corrected.


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The authors would like to acknowledge the work of Jean-Sebastien Binette, Kevin Williams, Nelson Viel, Pascal Grenier, and Jacques Blais, who were all instrumental to the development of the BIPED headform. The authors would also like to acknowledge the support from the technical staff at the Canadian METC and at the TNO Rijswijk shock tube test facility.

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Correspondence to S. Ouellet.

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Communicated by S. H. R. Hosseini.

The second author name was published with incorrect spelling. It should read as M. Philippens. Now, it has been corrected.

A correction to this article is available online at

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Ouellet, S., Philippens, M. The multi-modal responses of a physical head model subjected to various blast exposure conditions. Shock Waves 28, 19–36 (2018).

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