Aging with Traumatic Brain Injury: Effects of Age at Injury on Behavioral Outcome following Diffuse Brain Injury in Rats

Rachel K. Rowe, Jenna M. Ziebell, Jordan L. Harrison, L. Matthew Law, P. David Adelson, Jonathan Lifshitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Development and aging are influenced by external factors with the potential to impact health throughout the life span. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can initiate and sustain a lifetime of physical and mental health symptoms. Over 1.7 million TBIs occur annually in the USA alone, with epidemiology suggesting a higher incidence for young age groups. Additionally, increasing life spans mean more years to age with TBI. While there is ongoing research of experimental pediatric and adult TBI, few studies to date have incorporated animal models of pediatric, adolescent, and adult TBI to understand the role of age at injury across the life span. Here, we explore repeated behavioral performance between rats exposed to diffuse TBI at five different ages. Our aim was to follow neurological morbidities across the rodent life span with respect to age at injury. A single cohort of male Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 69) was received at postnatal day (PND) 10. Subgroups of this cohort (n = 11-12/group) were subjected to a single moderate midline fluid percussion injury at age PND 17, PND 35, 2 months, 4 months, or 6 months. A control group of naïve rats (n = 12) was assembled from this cohort. The entire cohort was assessed for motor function by beam walk at 1.5, 3, 5, and 7 months of age. Anxiety-like behavior was assessed with the open field test at 8 months of age. Cognitive performance was assessed using the novel object location task at 8, 9, and 10 months of age. Depression-like behavior was assessed using the forced swim test at 10 months of age. Age at injury and time since injury differentially influenced motor, cognitive, and affective behavioral outcomes. Motor and cognitive deficits occurred in rats injured at earlier developmental time points, but not in rats injured in adulthood. In contrast, rats injured during adulthood showed increased anxiety-like behavior compared to uninjured control rats. A single diffuse TBI did not result in chronic depression-like behaviors or changes in body weight among any groups. The interplay of age at injury and aging with an injury are translationally important factors that influence behavioral performance as a quality of life metric. More complete understanding of these factors can direct rehabilitative efforts and personalized medicine for TBI survivors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-205
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Age at injury
  • Aging
  • Behavior
  • Concussion
  • Juvenile
  • Puberty
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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