Brain network disruption in whiplash

J. P. Higgins, J. M. Elliott, Todd B. Parrish*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose: Whiplash-associated disorders frequently develop following motor vehicle collisions and often involve a range of cognitive and affective symptoms, though the neural correlates of the disorder are largely unknown. In this study, a sample of participants with chronic whiplash injuries were scanned by using resting-state fMRI to assess brain network changes associated with long-term outcome metrics. Materials and Methods: Resting-state fMRI was collected for 23 participants and used to calculate network modularity, a quantitative measure of the functional segregation of brain region communities. This was analyzed for associations with whiplash-associated disorder outcome metrics, including scales of neck disability, traumatic distress, depression, and pain. In addition to these clinical scales, cervical muscle fat infiltration was quantified by using Dixon fat-water imaging, which has shown promise as a biomarker for assessing disorder severity and predicting recovery in chronic whiplash. Results: An association was found between brain network structure and muscle fat infiltration, wherein lower network modularity was associated with larger amounts of cervical muscle fat infiltration after controlling for age, sex, body mass index, and scan motion (t = -4.02, partial R2= 0.49, P < .001). Conclusions: This work contributes to the existing whiplash literature by examining a sample of participants with whiplash-associated disorder by using resting-state fMRI. Less modular brain networks were found to be associated with greater amounts of cervical muscle fat infiltration suggesting a connection between disorder severity and neurologic changes, and a potential role for neuroimaging in understanding the pathophysiology of chronic whiplash-associated disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)994-1000
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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