Diffuse brain injuries resulting from non-impact rotational acceleration are investigated with the aid of physical models of the skull-brain structure. These models provide a unique insight into the relationship between the kinematics of head motion and the associated deformation of the surrogate brain material. Human and baboon skulls filled with optically transparent surrogate brain tissue are subjected to lateral rotations like those shown to produce diffuse injury to the deep white matter in the brain of the baboon. High-speed cinematography captures the deformations of the grids embedded within the surrogate brain tissue during the applied load.
The overall deformation pattern is compared to the pathological portrait of diffuse brain injury as determined from animal studies and autopsy reports. Shear strain and pathology spatial distributions mirror each other. Load levels and resulting surrogate brain tissue deformations are related from one species to the other. Increased primate brain mass magnified the strain amplified without significantly altering the spatial distribution. An empirically-derived value for a critical shear strain associated with the onset of severe diffuse axonal injury in primates is determined, assuming constitutive similarity between baboon and human brain tissue. The primate skull physical model data and the critical shear strain associated with the threshold for severe diffuse axonal injury were used to scale data obtained from previous studies to man, and thus derive a diffuse axonal injury tolerance for rotational acceleration for humans.