Theses and Dissertations


Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Stone, Tonya W.

Committee Member

To, Filip S.D.

Committee Member

Miralami, Raheleh

Committee Member

Adibi, Sara

Committee Member

Murphy, Michael A.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Campus Access Only


Biomedical Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


James Worth Bagley College of Engineering


Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering


Neuronal membrane disruption and mechanoporation are nanoscale damage mechanisms that critically affect brain cell viability during traumatic brain injury (TBI). These nanoscale cellular impairments are elusive in experiments and necessitate in silico approaches such as molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Implementing MD, this research aims to investigate the effects of different key factors related to membrane deformation and damage, including force field resolutions, lipid compositions, and loading conditions.

To examine the impact of force field resolution, MD deformation simulations were conducted on 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine (POPC) lipid bilayer membranes, using all-atom (AA), united-atom (UA), and coarse-grained Martini (CG-M) force fields. The mechanical responses of the three models progressively changed based on the coarse-graining level. The coarser systems exhibited lower yield stresses and failure strains, and higher mechanoporation damage.

To study the influence of lipid components, tensile deformation was applied on seven lipid bilayers, each of which contained a different lipid type commonly found in human brain membrane. Larger headgroup structure, greater degree of unsaturation, and tail-length asymmetry decreased lipid packing, increased the area per lipid (APL), and decreased the failure strain of membrane.

Lastly, the deformation behavior of a complex multicomponent MD bilayer (realistically representing human neuronal plasma membrane) under different strain rates and strain states was inspected. The yield stress increased with increasing strain rates and more equibiaxial strain states. Meanwhile, lower strain rates resulted in fewer but larger pores, as well as lower strain and APL at failure. Besides, more equibiaxial strain states exhibited more and larger pores, and lower failure strain. Similar failure APL was obtained regardless of strain states, suggesting that the membrane failed when reaching a critical APL value. In addition, the inclusion of cholesterol was shown to decrease the critical APL. The strain-state dependence results were then used to update the Membrane Failure Limit Diagram (MFLD) that indicates the planar strains for potential membrane failure.

Overall, the study provides a non-invasive approach that aids in the current understanding of nanoscale neuronal damage dynamics and essential aspects affecting membrane mechanical responses, and furthermore lays the groundwork for future studies on brain injury biomechanics under various TBI scenarios.