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Meier Laboratory

Meier Laboratory

The Meier Lab seeks to identify mechanisms of the acute and chronic effects of mild traumatic brain injury, including sport-related concussion. Using a variety of approaches—including advanced magnetic resonance metrics (e.g., fMRI, diffusion imaging, structural imaging), blood-based biomarkers, and clinical/behavioral testing—we look to answer questions such as: how long does it take the brain to recover following an acute mTBI, what are the physiological mechanisms associated with prolonged recovery following mTBI, and what are the cumulative effects of repetitive sport-related concussion on the brain?

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Research Areas

Cumulative Effects of Concussion and Contact-Sport Participation

ACC connectivity and KYNA/QUIN relationship significantly different in persons with prior concussion history

The Meier Lab is actively involved in determining the effects, if any, of repeat concussion and contact-sport participation on brain function and structure. Our group was among the first to demonstrate that subtle differences in brain structure (e.g., smaller volumes) and function—such as altered resting state connectivity, more psychological symptoms—are present in otherwise healthy college-aged athletes with prior concussion compared to athletes without concussion. Similar associations have also been observed in athletes with extensive contact sport experience compared to those with no contact sport experience. These results were limited to football players in relatively small sample sizes. One of our actively funded projects (R01NS102225; PI: Meier) involves replicating these findings and extending them to non-football and female athletes. This project will determine the relationship amongst concussion/contact sport history, brain structure and function, and blood-based biomarkers of a common immunoregulatory pathway that has been implicated in a variety of psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases.

Representative Publications

  1. Association of Previous Concussion with Hippocampal Volume and Symptoms in Collegiate-Aged Athletes
  2. Smaller Dentate Gyrus and CA2 and CA3 Volumes Are Associated with Kynurenine Metabolites in Collegiate Football Athletes
  3. Abnormalities in Functional Connectivity in Collegiate Football Athletes with and without a Concussion History: Implications and Role of Neuroactive Kynurenine Pathway Metabolites

Blood-Biomarkers in mTBI and Concussion

Concussion Biomarkers

The Meier Lab is actively investigating the potential utility of blood-based biomarkers in concussion and mTBI. Blood-based biomarkers have promise as objective markers to supplement current clinical practice for decisions regarding injury diagnosis and identifying individuals at risk for prolonged recovery. For example, we have demonstrated that brain-injury markers, such as GFAP, are elevated following sport-related concussion and improve the discrimination of concussed athletes compared to discrimination using symptoms alone. In addition, we have shown that inflammatory markers, while not specific to concussion, are predictive of symptom-duration following concussion. Ongoing work funded by the NIH continues to identify novel markers and investigate the utility of these markers in other cohorts, such as women and military service academy members (R21NS118169; R21NS099789; PI: Meier).

In addition to their potential clinical utility, blood-based biomarkers can also help identify potential physiological mechanisms that put individuals at risk for developing negative outcomes following concussion and mTBI. Several of our recent and ongoing projects have focused on blood levels of a common immunoregulatory pathway known as the kynurenine pathway. While this pathway has been linked with a variety of psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases, its role in mTBI has been underappreciated. The Meier Lab is investigating the association of blood levels of neuroactive kynurenine pathway metabolites with psychiatric sequelae observed acutely and chronically following TBI (R21NS099789; R01NS102225; PI: Meier).

Representative Publications

  1. A Prospective Study of Acute Blood-Based Biomarkers for Sport-Related Concussion
  2. Acute elevation of serum inflammatory markers predicts symptom recovery after concussion
  3. Mood symptoms correlate with kynurenine pathway metabolites following sports-related concussion
  4. The Kynurenine Pathway in Traumatic Brain Injury: Implications for Psychiatric Outcomes

Neuroimaging of mTBI and Concussion

Neuroimaging Concussion

Neuroimaging currently provides the most direct approach to studying the effects of TBI on the brain. The Meier Lab uses advanced MRI metrics—including task-based fMRI, resting state fMRI, diffusion MRI, arterial spin labeling, and structural MRI—to characterize the acute effects of mTBI and sport-related concussion on brain function and structure, as well as the time course of their recovery. Given our involvement in various MRI studies of concussion across several cohorts, we are also focused on leveraging and harmonizing MRI data from multiple prior projects to facilitate analyses of sport-related concussion on a scale that may not be feasible with single-site studies—e.g., potential moderating effects of sex.

Representative Publications

  1. Resting-state functional connectivity after concussion is associated with clinical recovery
  2. Recovery of cerebral blood flow following sports-related concussion
  3. Longitudinal assessment of white matter abnormalities following sports-related concussion
  4. Prevalence of Potentially Clinically Significant Magnetic Resonance Imaging Findings in Athletes with and without Sport-Related Concussion

The National Collegiate Athletic Association - Department of Defense Grand Alliance: Concussion Assessment, Research, and Education (CARE) Consortium

Graph showing cumulative effect of sports concussion by years of participation

The CARE Consortium is a large, multi-site effort focused on characterizing the acute, intermediate, and cumulative/chronic effects of concussion and head impact exposure in NCAA athletes and military service academy members using head impact sensors, advanced MRI, blood-based biomarkers and genetics, and clinical testing, and the Meier Lab is critically involved in the blood and MRI biomarker work of the CARE Consortium Studies, including CARE 1.0, CARE 2.0, and CARE-SALTOS Integrated.

Representative Publications

  1. Prospective study of the association between sport-related concussion and brain morphometry (3T-MRI) in collegiate athletes: study from the NCAA-DoD CARE Consortium
  2. Cumulative Effects of Prior Concussion and Primary Sport Participation on Brain Morphometry in Collegiate Athletes: A Study From the NCAA-DoD CARE Consortium
  3. Association of Blood Biomarkers With Acute Sport-Related Concussion in Collegiate Athletes: Findings From the NCAA and Department of Defense CARE Consortium
  4. Resting-State fMRI Metrics in Acute Sport-Related Concussion and Their Association with Clinical Recovery: A Study from the NCAA-DOD CARE Consortium
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Facilities

The Meier Lab is a part of the Brain Injury Research Program located in the Hub for Collaborative Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Advanced neuroimaging capabilities are provided by the Center for Imaging Research. Fluid biomarker work is supported through facilities and staff of the Adult Translational Research Unit of the CTSI of Southeast Wisconsin and the Neuroscience Research Center.

Funding

The Meier Laboratory receives funding on a continual basis from the Medical College of Wisconsin and on a per-project basis from such institutions as the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Learn more about the NINDS

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Current Grants
Daniel M. Soref Charitable Trust | Meier (PI)
03/26/2021–02/28/2022
Advanced MRI Markers for Repeat Concussion

NIH/NINDS: R21NS118169 | Meier (PI)
07/01/2020–06/30/2022
Peripheral inflammatory biomarkers for acute concussion: An extension of the Concussion Assessment, Research and Education Consortium Study.

NIH/NINDS: R01NS110856 | Nelson (PI)
05/15/2019–03/31/2024
Improving patient classification and outcome measurement in traumatic brain injury (TBI)

NIH/NINDS: R01NS110600 | McCrea, Wang (PIs)
04/01/2019–03/31/2024
Effects of head impact exposure during contact sport on middle school and high school athletes

NIH/NINDS: R01NS098494 | Mayer (PI)
04/01/2019–03/31/2022
The impact of diffuse mild brain injury on clinical outcomes in children

UHSUS: HU0001-18-2-0008 | Pasquina (PI)
07/01/2018–06/30/2022
Service Academy Longitudinal TBI Outcomes Study (SALTOS)

NIH/NINDS: R01NS102225 | Meier (PI)
12/01/2017–11/30/2022
The role of neuroactive kynurenine metabolites in the chronic sequelae of concussion and contact sport exposure
Past Grants
DOD/NCAA: W81XWH-18-2-0047 | McAllister, Broglio, McCrea (PIs)
09/01/2018–08/31/2020
Cumulative and Persistent Intermediate Effects of Concussion and Head Impact Exposure in CARE Consortium Military Service Academy Members and NCAA Athletes

Daniel M. Soref Charitable Trust | Meier (PI)
06/01/2018–05/31/2019
Development of 3T neuroimaging protocol for pediatric mild traumatic brain injury

NIH/NINDS: R21NS099789 Meier (PI)
07/01/2017–06/30/2020 (NCE)
Inflammation and kynurenine metabolites in the acute sequelae of concussion

CTSI | Nelson (PI)
04/01/2016–03/31/2017
Predictive value of brief personality measures on recovery course and outcome after mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI): 2016 extension project

Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin | Nelson (PI)
04/01/2016–03/31/2017
Association between post-concussive activity and clinical and neurophysiological recovery

GE/NFL | McCrea (PI)
10/01/2015–09/30/2017
A prospective study of advanced MRI biomarkers to determine acute physiological effects and longitudinal recovery after sport-related concussion

Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin | Meier (PI)
08/01/2015–07/31/2020 (NCE)
Neuroimaging and blood-marker correlates of recovery and outcome following mild traumatic brain injury

DOD: W81XWH-14-1-0561 | McCrea (PI)
09/30/2014–09/29/2019
Comprehensive study of acute effects and recovery after concussion

DOD/NCAA: W81XWH-14-2-0151 | McAllister, Broglio, McCrea (PIs)
09/15/2014–09/14/2019
The DOD/NCAA Grand Alliance: Concussion Assessment, Research, and Education (CARE) Consortium

Current Members

Led by Lab Director and Principal Investigator Dr. Timothy Meier, the team at the Meier Laboratory specializes in Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in sport, military and civilian populations. 

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Timothy B. Meier, PhD

Associate Professor

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Lezlie Y. España, BS

Programmer Analyst II

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Bryna Goeckner

Graduate Student

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Keeley Hamill

Clinical Research Assistant II

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Jennifer Hill, MA, CCRC

Program Director, Brain Injury Research Program

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Dan Huber

Senior Data Analyst, Brain Injury Research Program

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Katie Krahn

Research Program Coordinator, Brain Injury Research Program

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Amy Nader

Clinical Research Coordinator, Brain Injury Research Program

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Kearnin Van Bortel

Clinical Research Assistant II

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Nicholas Weyenberg

Data Analyst

MCW Collaborators

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Michael McCrea, PhD, ABPP

The Shekar N. Kurpad, MD, PhD, Chair in Neurosurgery; Professor; Vice Chair of Research; Co-director, Neurotrauma Research Center; Director, Brain Injury Research Program

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Lindsay Nelson, PhD, ABPP

Associate Professor

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Benjamin Brett, PhD

Assistant Professor

Center for Imaging Research
Medical College of Wisconsin

Neuroscience Research Center
Medical College of Wisconsin

Adult Translational Research Unit
Medical College of Wisconsin

External Collaborators

Andrew Mayer, PhD

Mind Research Network

 

Jonathan Savitz, PhD

Laureate Institute for Brain Research

Kent Teague, PhD

OU-TU School of Community Medicine

 

Rebekah Mannix, MD

Boston Children's Hospital

Jessica Gill, PhD

National Institute of Nursing Research, National Institutes of Health

 

CARE Consortium

Alumni

Grace Amadon 
Clinical Research Assistant II 

Luisa Bohorquez, PhD 
Post-Doctoral Associate

Sam Bobholz 
Laboratory Technician

Jaila Coleman 
Research Assistant



Mayank Kaushul 
Post-Doctoral Associate

Monica Keith (Giraldo-Chica), PhD 
Post-Doctoral Associate

Alex Kirk 
Research Assistant

Ryan Lee 

Medical Student

Katie Mau 
Research Assistant

Morgan E. Nitta, MS 
Doctoral Research Assistant

Jennifer Powell 
Research Assistant

Get Involved!

Participate in Research

We are currently enrolling collegiate athletes to study brain health in sports. Participants will receive a stipend upon completion. Fill out this questionnaire if you are interested. 

This study is being conducted in conjunction with the NINDS and the MCW  Brain Injury Research Program.

Educational Opportunities

Students interested in Graduate Education in the Neuroscience of Brain Injury are invited to explore opportunities in the MU-MCW Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, as well as the Neuroscience Doctoral Program at the Medical College of Wisconsin.  

Biomedical Engineering Doctoral Program

Neuroscience Doctoral Program (NDP)

Join Our Team

The Meier Laboratory is always on the look out for individuals with an interest in the Neuroscience of Brain Injury. For general questions regarding open opportunities, contact Dr. Timothy Meier

Recent Publications

Contact Us

Meier Laboratory

(414) 955-7300