In this study, we investigated how animal orientation within a shock tube influences the biomechanical responses of the brain and cerebral vasculature of a rat when exposed to a blast wave. Using three-dimensional finite-element models, we computed the biomechanical responses when the rat was exposed to the same blast-wave overpressure (100 kPa) in a prone (P), vertical (V), or head-only (HO) orientation. We validated our model by comparing the model-predicted and the experimentally measured brain pressures at the lateral ventricle. For all three orientations, the maximum difference between the predicted and measured pressures was 11%. Animal orientation markedly influenced the predicted peak pressure at the anterior position along the mid-sagittal plane of the brain (P = 187 kPa; V = 119 kPa; and HO = 142 kPa). However, the relative differences in the predicted peak pressure between the orientations decreased at the medial (21%) and posterior (7%) positions. In contrast to the pressure, the peak strain in the prone orientation relative to the other orientations at the anterior, medial, and posterior positions was 40-88% lower. Similarly, at these positions, the cerebral vasculature strain in the prone orientation was lower than the strain in the other orientations. These results show that animal orientation in a shock tube influences the biomechanical responses of the brain and the cerebral vasculature of the rat, strongly suggesting that a direct comparison of changes in brain tissue observed from animals exposed at different orientations can lead to incorrect conclusions.

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