The interaction of explosion-induced blast waves with the head (i.e., a direct mechanism) or with the torso (i.e., an indirect mechanism) presumably causes traumatic brain injury. However, the understanding of the potential role of each mechanism in causing this injury is still limited. To address this knowledge gap, we characterized the changes in the brain tissue of rats resulting from the direct and indirect mechanisms at 24 h following blast exposure. To this end, we conducted separate blast-wave exposures on rats in a shock tube at an incident overpressure of 130 kPa, while using whole-body, head-only, and torso-only configurations to delineate each mechanism. Then, we performed histopathological (silver staining) and immunohistochemical (GFAP, Iba-1, and NeuN staining) analyses to evaluate brain-tissue changes resulting from each mechanism. Compared to controls, our results showed no significant changes in torso-only-exposed rats. In contrast, we observed significant changes in whole-body-exposed (GFAP and silver staining) and head-only-exposed rats (silver staining). In addition, our analyses showed that a head-only exposure causes changes similar to those observed for a whole-body exposure, provided the exposure conditions are similar. In conclusion, our results suggest that the direct mechanism is the major contributor to blast-induced changes in brain tissues.
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