Repeated Head Trauma May Be Cause of Erratic Behavior, Impaired Judgment

Erratic behavior, balance issues, depression, impaired judgment and other concerns often associated with aging and age-related conditions may actually be due to something else. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is progressive degenerative disease of the brain, resulting from repeated impact to the head. First recognized in boxers, CTE is now understood to affect others who have played contact sports, as well as those in the military.

“The brain of an individual who suffers from chronic traumatic encephalopathy gradually deteriorates and will over time end up losing mass,” reports the Brain Injury Research Institute. “Certain areas of the brain are particularly liable to atrophy, though other areas are prone to becoming enlarged. Another aspect of CTE is that some areas of the brain experience an accumulation of tau protein, a substance which serves to stabilize cellular structure in the neurons but which may become defective and subsequently may cause major interference with the function of the neurons.”

There is much that is still unknown about CTE; related degenerative changes in the brain might not start until decades after the trauma ended. Unfortunately, there is no cure, and diagnosis is typically made after death during an autopsy.

Researchers at UCLA, however—funded by a Brain Injury Research Institute grant—are exploring diagnosis of CTE in living subjects, as well, through identification of the tau protein. Ideally, with diagnostic tests in place, those at risk could be screened early on.

If you or a loved one has a history of traumatic head injuries, talk to your doctor. Offering a full picture of history and health can help prevent incorrect diagnoses of conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

 

 


Sources:
Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-traumatic-encephalopathy/basics/definition/con-20113581
Boston University: http://www.bu.edu/cte/about/what-is-cte/
Brain Injury Research Institute: http://www.protectthebrain.org/Brain-Injury-Research/What-is-CTE-.aspx