Head Trauma Could Lead to Alzheimer’s Disease

A new study, released by the American Academy of Neurology, suggests that head trauma, which resulted in even a brief loss of consciousness or memory, could potentially lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

According to a CNN news report, the study was conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic, and examined: (1) 448 older Minnesotans that did not have symptoms of memory problems; and (2) 141 older Minnesotans that did have symptoms of memory problems. Approximately 17 percent of the individuals from each group had suffered brain injuries that included a loss of consciousness or memory at some point during their lives.

The study revealed that subjects who did not have symptoms of memory problems, regardless of suffering from a brain injury earlier on in their lives, had normal brain scans. However, subjects with a history of brain injury and who currently had symptoms of memory problems were five times as likely to show a buildup of amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s.

According to an USA Today report, Richard Lipton, the director of Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Division of Cognitive Aging and Dementia and the Montefior Headache Center, noted, “In my view, these findings are consistent with the idea that traumatic brain injury may lead to amyloid accumulation and Alzheimer’s disease.” However, Lipton suggests that additional research is necessary to better understand the connection between injury and the disease. “To more fully explore the causal links, we need not just brilliant snapshots but the movies which track brain changes and cognitive changes over time.”

Lipton hopes that by better understanding how brain injuries can lead to Alzheimer’s disease, superior interventions can be developed to prevent long-term damage to injured brains. He notes, “Drugs that block the development of amyloid or increase its removal from the brain may help protect persons with traumatic brain injury from Alzheimer’s disease, though that has not been demonstrated.”