Increasing evidence suggests that in some individuals concussions can have long-term consequences increasing risk of depression, anxiety and substance abuse. In particular adolescence appears to be a particularly vulnerable period, with adolescents taking twice as long to recover from the acute effects of concussion and evidence to suggest that they may be at higher risk for persistent subtle deficits. This may be due to the ongoing development of the pre-frontal cortex in this period, which does not reach full maturation until the early 20’s. The pre-frontal cortex is responsible for the development of higher order executive functions such as judgement, planning, working memory and impulse control. This is why adolescents engage in much higher levels of risk taking behaviour, which normally subsides with age. This project will explore whether this adolescent phenotype may persist following a concussion during adolescence due to disrupted development of the pre-frontal cortex.
The project will use our well characterised model of pre-clinical concussion and examine the growth of dopaminergic axons into the pre-frontal cortex during adolescence and how this is affected by concussive impacts at different developmental ages. This will be under the supervision of Dr Frances Corrigan, leader of the Head Injury group within the Biomedical Health Innovation concentration at the University of South Australia. The project is fully funded, but students will be required to secure a scholarship for their living expenses. Application for a scholarship will be fully supported.