27 December 2013

AAN Study Suggests Concussions May Be Linked to Alzheimer's Disease

A study published in the American Academy of Neurology medical journal Neurology® suggest that there is a link between concussion and Alzheimer's Disease.

The study involved 589 people who were 70 years old or older. 448 of the peole had no signs of memory problems and 141 experience mild cognitive impairment (MCI). They were all given brain scans and asked whether they had ever experienced a brain injury that involved any loss of consciousness or memory.

The study showed that for those who had MCI and experienced a brain injury, their levels of Alzheimer causing amyloid plaques were 18% higher than those with no head trauma history.

Similarities between concussions and Alzheimer's Disease have been observed by scientists before. But no conclusive proof have yet been found relating one to the other. This recent study proves that finding a definitive link between the two may be a bit complicated.

A concussion is a head injury where the brain is shaken inside the skull. These concussions can be caused by injuries to the head that affects the scalp, skull or brain. These injuries can lead to Traumatic Brain Injury (TMI) where patients can experience short term memory loss, disorientation, unconsciousness or even permanent damage to the brain.

In March 2013, the American Academy of Neurology released new guidelines in evaluating and managing athletes with concussions to address the rise of head injuries with concussions being on the top spot.

Link Between Concussion and Alzheimer's Disease

A new study suggests that a history of concussion involving at least a momentary loss of consciousness may be related to the buildup of Alzheimer's-associated plaques in the brain. The research is published in the December 26, 2013, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"Interestingly, in people with a history of concussion, a difference in the amount of brain plaques was found only in those with memory and thinking problems, not in those who were cognitively normal," said study author Michelle Mielke, PhD, with Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

For the study, people from Olmsted County in Minnesota were given brain scans; these included 448 people without any signs of memory problems and 141 people with memory and thinking problems called mild cognitive impairment. Participants, who were all age 70 or older, were also asked about whether they had ever experienced a brain injury that involved any loss of consciousness or memory.

Video: Similarities Between Alzheimer's and Concussions

Of the 448 people without any thinking or memory problems, 17 percent reported a brain injury and 18 percent of the 141 with memory and thinking difficulties reported a concussion or head trauma.

The study found no difference in any brain scan measures among the people without memory and thinking impairments, whether or not they had head trauma. However, people with memory and thinking impairments and a history of head trauma had levels of amyloid plaques an average of 18 percent higher than those with no head trauma history.

"Our results add merit to the idea that concussion and Alzheimer's disease brain pathology may be related," said Mielke. "However, the fact that we did not find a relationship in those without memory and thinking problems suggests that any association between head trauma and amyloid is complex."


American Academy of Neurology
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Concussion Rate in College Athletes Increasing
When Head Injury or Trauma In Sports Leads To Memory Loss and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)
Study Looks At Importance of Bicycle Helmets For Children In Mitigating Impact and Crush Injuries