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Brain plaques suggest link between dementia, brain injury

Both traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer’s disease are serious medical crises in Los Angeles and around the world. Since both cause neurological damage, some researchers have wondered if they share any similarities.

A newly published study suggests that Alzheimer’s and TBI could share at least one symptom. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic say that both appear to cause a certain type of plaques to appear in the brain.

The study involved brain scans of 589 people who were at least age 70. Of these, 141 displayed symptoms of mild cognitive impairment.

The volunteers were asked whether they had ever experienced a concussion or similar head trauma. The rates of TBI history were almost identical, whether or not the subjects had cognitive impairment or not. Around 17 percent of those without symptoms reported a TBI in their past. Those with signs of dementia reported a TBI 18 percent of the time.

However, the group with both a history of brain injury and current cognitive problems had 18 percent more amyloid beta plaques than the volunteers that had never had brain trauma. Amyloid beta plaques are a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. If TBI can also cause those plaques to form, it could suggest that brain injury and Alzheimer’s can have more in common than previously thought.

Eventually, if this connection is proven, it could lead to a new perspective in treating TBI. Previous research has suggested a possible link between brain injuries and cognitive impairment, such as dementia, later in life. However, a breakthrough based on these findings could be years away.

Source: Fox News, “Concussions may lead to Alzheimer’s brain plaques,” Dec. 27, 2013

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