Neuroimaging demonstrates that athletes of collision sports can suffer significant changes to their brain in the absence of concussion, attributable to head acceleration event (HAE) exposure. In a sample of 24 male Division I collegiate football players, we examine the relationships between tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH2), a gene involved in neurovascular function, regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) measured by arterial spin labeling, and virtual reality (VR) motor performance, both pre-season and across a single football season. For the pre-season, TPH2 T-carriers showed lower rCBF in two left hemisphere foci (fusiform gyrus/thalamus/hippocampus and cerebellum) in association with higher (better performance) VR Reaction Time, a dynamic measure of sensory-motor reactivity and efficiency of visual-spatial processing. For TPH2 CC homozygotes, higher pre-season rCBF in these foci was associated with better performance on VR Reaction Time. A similar relationship was observed across the season, where TPH2 T-carriers showed improved VR Reaction Time associated with decreases in rCBF in the right hippocampus/amygdala, left middle temporal lobe, and left insula/putamen/pallidum. In contrast, TPH2 CC homozygotes showed improved VR Reaction Time associated with increases in rCBF in the same three clusters. These findings show that TPH2 T-carriers have an abnormal relationship between rCBF and the efficiency of visual-spatial processing that is exacerbated after a season of high-impact sports in the absence of diagnosable concussion. Such gene-environment interactions associated with behavioral changes after exposure to repetitive HAEs have been unrecognized with current clinical analytical tools and warrant further investigation. Our results demonstrate the importance of considering neurovascular factors along with traumatic axonal injury to study long-term effects of repetitive HAEs.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Neurology