Research ArticleTraumatic Brain Injury

Dietary Therapy Mitigates Persistent Wake Deficits Caused by Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Science Translational Medicine  11 Dec 2013:
Vol. 5, Issue 215, pp. 215ra173
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3007092

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A Diet for Staying Awake

Postconcussive syndrome can persist for months after mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), and includes debilitating neurological symptoms such as sleep-wake disturbances. Sleep disorders can hinder recovery from brain injury by exacerbating existing deficits in memory, cognition, and daily functioning. No proven therapies exist to mitigate the sequelae of TBI. Now, Lim et al. show that mild TBI in mice causes a persistent inability to maintain wakefulness and is associated with decreased activation of orexin neurons. Orexin is involved in human narcolepsy and other disorders of arousal. Lim et al. gave mice with TBI a dietary supplement of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), precursors for de novo glutamate synthesis in the brain. BCAA therapy restored activation of orexin neurons and improved wakefulness in injured mice. These data suggest that dietary BCAA intervention, acting in part through orexin, can improve sleep-wake dysfunction after TBI and may potentially facilitate recovery of function from brain injury.