Concussion / mTBI

Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is a multi-billion-dollar health issue that has a major social impact on mental health, crime and unemployment. MRI shows promise for the discover of bio-markers in concussion/mTBI. Early identification through advanced imaging could result in significant health improvements.


Mātai’s research could have potential for both understanding the fundamental causes of concussion and for better treatments, including improved protocols for the identification and management of concussion and for return to activity protocols. Such protocols could also include evidence backed mandatory stand-down periods in sports.


Studies will involve advanced brain MRI scans of high-contact sports-players to construct individualised computational models that can be integrated into the kinematic sensors (designed to measure impact from brain injury/concussion). In collaboration with the University of Auckland, we will develop predictive neurological models that correlate mechanical damage with the extent of brain damage. Finding a reliable and objective test for concussion will help to determine when people can safely return to normal routine.


Research into changes in eye movements could help to diagnose severity of brain injury. We are teaming up with the Department of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Auckland, Axis Sports, AUT, and ESR to work on effective eye-tracking methods for diagnosing concussion. We are also working with the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and the Centre for Brain Research on a mobile phone app which diagnoses the severity of brain injuries through eye movements. Mātai will be working on longitudinal studies with high-impact sports players, using MRI to measure structural changes resulting from impacts to the head, which will help to validate the effectiveness of the these devices.


Mātai will search for anomalies in the brain that could be indicators of brain injury. Once these biomarkers have been identified, this will help our understanding of brain damage and lead to better rehabilitation methods. Presently, MRI technology is promising, but not sufficiently developed to identify head injury biomarkers. Through further research into MRI software advancements being developed by Mātai, combined with biomechanical & computational modelling, and artificial intelligence, we will search for answers.


Heart rate variability (HRV) explores the information encoded in the beat to beat variations of the heart. It provides a doorway to explore the autonomic nervous system along with the response to emotional factors.

While requiring further exploration, HRV has been shown to be altered in mTBI patients, and has been used as a bio-feedback tool for improved emotional outcome measures.

Mātai’s researchers will explore HRV as a potential tool for concussion diagnosis and response to treatment.


Mātai and the Centre for Brain Research is involved in a multi-disciplinary collaboration with the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd — who have a novel method for sequencing RNA from body fluids to look for differences between those suffering a mild traumatic brain injury and those that are not. Through this collaborative effort, we will investigate whether RNA provides a rapid, non-invasive test to monitor recovery from mTBI.