Nebraska Funds Lab to Examine Questions about Student Athletes and Concussions

Earlier this month, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents unanimously approved a $5 million expenditure that could greatly enhance to study of concussions and their impact on student athletes.

Specifically, the Board approved the funding for two new labs – one focusing on athletic performance and the other on concussions – which will be housed in the east wing of Memorial Stadium.

The Molfese’s Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior, in particular, hopes to obtain baseline pictures of incoming Big Ten athletes’ brains to examine how they change through injury and recovery.

UNL psychologist Dennis Molfese credited NU Athletic Director Tom Osborne and other for supporting the endeavor. The athletic department wants to know how soon a player who suffers a concussion can return to a game, according to Molfese.

To accomplish this, the lab will use “functional” MRIs, which track blood flow in different parts of the brain. “When a person thinks about something, blood flows to that part of the brain,” Molfese told the school newspaper. “Because a common side effect of concussions is memory loss, a brain region might not been activated if there is no blood flowing to it. With most concussions, the problems we see are functional, not structural.”

Among the questions he wants to answer is whether athletes ever get back to where they were before suffering a concussion and if there are certain people more vulnerable to concussions than others.

Completion of the labs is expected to be in early summer of 2013.

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