Pediatric Neurotrauma Laboratory

The Pediatric Neurotrauma Program, directed by Andrew Reisner, MD, is a multi-institutional collaboration representing Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University. Our mission is to establish a basic science research program focused on pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI). We work to improve the health and quality of life of children living with acute neurological injuries, specifically TBI.

Through our large volume of pediatric neurotrauma patients, we use translational research to improve patient care. We collaborate with local and national researchers of all disciplines to advance the understanding and treatment of TBI.

Pediatric Neurotrauma Lab’s mission is to facilitate research that can improve the treatment and outcome of traumatic brain injuries in children.

What We Study

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Concussion
  • Biomarkers in acquired brain injury

Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when an outside force is applied to the head and results in an interruption of normal brain function. The severity of a TBI can range from mild (a brief change in mental status or consciousness) to severe (an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia).

TBI is a leading cause of death and permanent disability in U.S. children and adolescents, and pose major public health problem. The most common causes of TBI are sports injuries and motor vehicle accidents. The impact of TBI on a child and his or her family can be devastating.


A concussion is a form of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head. Concussions can also occur from a fall or a hit to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth. Concussions are described as a mild form of TBI since they’re not usually life threatening.

Although most children make a complete recovery from a concussion, on occasion their effects can be serious and long lasting. This is especially true if a child has second impact syndrome. This happens when a concussed brain is reinjured before it has recovered from its initial concussion. This is a serious and potentially fatal condition. We are collaborating to create guidelines that allow careful, supervised return to play and return to school guidelines to help patients avoid this condition.


A biomarker (biological marker) is something that can be easily measured to show the severity of a particular disease. Biomarkers can be used to guide treatments by measuring their response to a particular therapy. For example, doctors can test a patient’s blood glucose level in response to insulin.

Despite extensive research, there is no reliable biomarker for TBI to date. A critical part of our research at Children’s is locating a specific biomarker for TBI.

Translational Research

According to the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), translation is the process of turning observations in the laboratory, clinic, and community into interventions that improve the health of individuals or populations.

This process of translation is facilitated by translational research, with navigates a specific step for a particular target or disease.** The Pediatric Neurotrauma Laboratory at Children’s was set up to facilitate translational research into traumatic brain injuries (TBI), including concussion. It is designed to complement our large clinical volume. The purpose of this research is to help find better treatments for pediatric TBI.

Translational research can encompasses a spectrum of stages with the ultimate goal of moving understandings gained from basic research into interventions that improve the health of individuals, and ultimately populations. NCATS recognizes that the full spectrum of translational research includes: basic research (scientific exploration), pre-clinical research (applying fundamental discoveries), clinical research (clinical trials and health services research), and clinical implementation (adoption to routine practice and any resulting new questions or gaps in care).*

*National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. "Translational Science Spectrum." National Institutes of Medicine. Updated July 16, 2018. Retrieved Nov. 13, 2018 from

**Austin, C. Translating translation. Nature Reviews. 2018;17: 455-456.

Meet the Team

Our Neurotrauma Lab team

 Neurotrauma Lab Team

Advisory Committee

Donald G. Stein, PhD
Susan Margulies, PhD
David Wright, MD
Stacy Heilman, PhD
Clint Joiner, MD

Funding and Contributors

  • NIH R21-Osteopontin as a Blood Biomarker in Severe Pediatric Brain Injury
  • Emerging Leaders for Children’s group has selected the Concussion Program as beneficiary of their 2017 fundraising efforts (approximately $250,000)
  • Elaine and John C. Carlos Chair for Neurotrauma
  • Children’s Trust

Selected publications

Reisner AR, Ralston AK, Vats A, Sawvel MS, Blackwell LS. (in press) Commentary: Guidelines for the Management of Pediatric Severe Traumatic Brain Injury, Third Edition: Update of the Brain Trauma Foundation Guidelines, Executive Summary. Neurosurgery

Gao, N., Zhang-Brotzge, X., Wali, B., Sayeed, I., Chern, J.J., Blackwell, L.S.,  Kuan, C.Y.,  Reisner, A. (2019) Plasma osteopontin may predict neuroinflammation and the severity of pediatric traumatic brain injury. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, Mar 13:271678X19836412. doi: 10.1177/0271678X19836412. [Epub ahead of print].

Reisner, A.R., Chern, JJ, Walson, K, Tillman, N, Petrillo-Albarano, T, Sribnick, EA, Blackwell, LS, Suskin, ZD, Kuan, C, & Vats A. (2018). Introduction of severe traumatic brain injury care protocol is associated with reduction in mortality for pediatric patients: a case study of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Neurotrauma Program. J Neurosurg Pediatr, Aug;22(2):165-172.

Reisner, A., Burns, T.G., Hall, L.B., Jain, S., Weselman, B.C., De Grauw, T.J., Ono, K.E., Blackwell, L.S., & Chern, J.J. (2017). Quality improvement in concussion care: Influence of guideline-based education. The Journal of Pediatrics, 184, 26-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2017.01.045

King, H., Campbell, S., Herzog, M., Popoli, D., Reisner, A., & Polikandriotis, J. (2015). Epidemiology of injuries in high school football: Does school size matter? Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 12(8), 1162-1167. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2014-0356

Reisner, A., Popoli, D.M., Burns, T.G., Marshall, D.L., Jain, S., Hall, L.B., Vova, J.A., Kroll, S., Weselman, B.C., Palasis, S., Hayes, L.L., Clark, G.H., Speake, K.M., Holbrook, B.H., Wiskind, R.H., Licata, R.M., Ono, K.E., Hogan, E., Chern, J.J., & DeGrauw, T. (2015). The central role of community-practicing pediatricians in contemporary concussion care: A case study of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Concussion Program. Clinical Pediatrics, 54(11) 1031-1037. doi: 10.1177/0009922815573468

Popoli, D.M., Burns, T.G., Meehan, W.P. 3rd, & Reisner, A. (2014). CHOA concussion consensus: Establishing a uniform policy for academic accommodations. Clinical Pediatrics, 53(3), 217-224. doi: 10.1177/0009922813499070

May, K.M., Marshall, D.L., Burns, T.G., Popoli, D.M., & Polikandriotis, J.A. (2014). Pediatric sports specific return to play guidelines following concussion. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 9(2), 242-255.

Ono, K.E., Burns, T.G., Bearden, D.J., McManus, S.M., King, H., & Reisner, A. (2016) Sex-based differences as a predictor of recovery trajectories in young athletes after a sports-related concussion. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 44(3), 748-752. doi: 10.1177/0363546515617746

Refer to the links on individual faculty pages for a more comprehensive list of publications.

Ways to Get Involved

Periodically, Children’s Pediatric Neurotrauma Laboratory may have opportunities to get involved in its lab work and research.

If you are a student or researcher with an interest in translational research and a passion for improving outcomes for children and young people with traumatic brain injury, we would love to hear from you.

Please submit your interest by emailing us at

Ways to Give

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in collaboration with Emory University has established the Pediatric Neurotrauma Laboratory to facilitate research that can improve the treatment and outcome of traumatic brain injuries in children. We collaborate with local and national researchers of all disciplines to advance the understanding and treatment of TBI. Use the link below to donate.

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