Adult obese mice suffer from chronic secondary brain injury after mild TBI

Matthew Sherman, Ming Mei Liu, Shari Birnbaum, Steven E. Wolf, Joseph P. Minei, Joshua W. Gatson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Background: A traumatic brain injury (TBI) event is a devastating injury to the brain that may result in heightened inflammation, neurodegeneration, and subsequent cognitive and mood deficits. TBI victims with co-morbidities such as heart disease, diabetes, or obesity may be more vulnerable to the secondary brain injury that follows the initial insult. Compared to lean individuals, obese subjects tend to have worse clinical outcomes and higher mortality rates after trauma. Methods: To elucidate whether obesity predisposes individuals to worse outcomes after TBI, we subjected adult lean and obese male/female mice to a mild TBI. The injury was administered using a controlled skull impact (CSI) device. Lean or obese 6-month-old C57 BL/6 mice were subjected once to a mild TBI. Additionally, at day 30 after injury, both the lean and obese mice were tested for increased anxiety using the open field test. Results: At day 30 after TBI, compared to the lean mice, we found heightened microglial (MG) activation in the cerebral cortex, corpus callosum, and hypothalamus. Another compelling finding was that, compared to the non-injured obese male control mice, the obese TBI mice had a decrease in the rate of weight gain and serum corticosterone levels at day 30 after injury. Additionally, the injured obese mice displayed higher levels of anxiety as determined by a significant decrease in time spent in the non-peripheral zones in the open field test. In contrast to the obese males, the obese female mice did not exhibit increases in the number of active MG in the brain, changes in weight gain/corticosterone levels, or increased anxiety at day 30 after TBI. Conclusions: The data presented here suggests that obese mice have worse outcomes compared to lean mice after mild TBI. Also, the obese males have worse outcomes than the injured female mice. This data may explain the sequela of chronic secondary brain injury in obese adults after a single mild TBI. Also, this report may help shape how the overweight/obese populations are monitored over the days and months following a TBI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number171
JournalJournal of neuroinflammation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 30 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Inflammation
  • Obesity
  • TBI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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