Characterizing Traumatic Brain Injury in Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is remarkably prevalent: ~15-50% of women are will likely experience IPV in their life. Following an IPV episode, the survivor can have negative mental health outcomes including: post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. These injury outcomes may be rooted in structural or functional changes in the brain. Currently, there is very little direct evidence for the potential link between IPV and traumatic brain injury (TBI), specifically how the latter may have an influence on the outcome and trajectory of survivors. Following a TBI, neuropathological changes (physiological and anatomical) are reported as a rapid onset of neurological impairments.

Given the subtle nature of the deficits, it is often difficult to determine injury extent, or when a patient has recovered. From a clinical perspective, current diagnosis mainly relies on self-reported symptoms such as: headaches and dizziness. The subjective nature of self-reported symptoms and the possibility of bias, clouds symptom presence and magnitudes. The physiological measures (cerebral autoregulation, autonomic function) in this investigation will serve as objective diagnostic markers to develop advanced screening tools to inform treatments for IPV survivors presenting to shelters. This study has been endorsed by the Ministry of Women’s Health, which will use the findings to alter the manner in which health care and social workers assist with this population.