Study: Traumatic Brain Injury Linked to Alzheimers-Like Symptoms in SeniorsMarch 7, 2016
Researchers at Penn State University released a study on the links between traumatic brain injury and neurological degeneration in senior citizens. The study showed that even a single traumatic brain injury incident can lead to neurodegeneration in seniors similar to that found in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The study also revealed that such Alzheimer’s-like symptoms can accelerate a patient’s mental decline years after the TBI occurred.
Details of the Traumatic Brain Injury Study
The traumatic brain injury study examined postmortem brain tissue samples from 39 senior citizen patients who had experienced TBI, while comparing them to tissue samples from uninjured patients in the same age group. The study showed that one-third of the patients who had experienced only a single traumatic brain injury incident showed neurological degeneration similar to that found in Alzheimer’s patients. Dr. Douglas Smith, a co-author on the study, stated, “A single traumatic brain injury is very serious, both initially, and as we’re now learning, even later in life.”
Traumatic Brain Injury Study Examines “Tangles”
The tissue samples revealed how a traumatic brain injury can create “tangles” and “plaques” in the brain, similar to those found in Alzheimer’s patients. A “tangle” occurs when proteins accumulate in brain cells, blocking off vital nutrients and blood flow. The blockages force the neurons to twist into a “tangle”, rather than remain smooth. A “plaque” occurs when proteins accumulate in the spaces between nerve cells. According to Dr. Smith, the plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer’s “are appearing abnormally early in life” in patients with even a single traumatic brain injury.
Symptoms Appear Years After Traumatic Brain Injury
One aspect of the study showed that patients who had experienced a traumatic brain injury could show Alzheimer’s-like symptoms years after the incident that caused their injury. The study authors also found that the rate of neurological degeneration in seniors who had suffered a traumatic brain injury was faster than that of uninjured patients. Other studies have examined the effect of brain hemorrhaging attributed to TBI on the accumulation of iron deposits in the brain, which can lead to the accumulation of plaques and tangles.
Seniors Prone to Traumatic Brain Injury from Falls
A major cause for concern has been the strong correlation between traumatic brain injury in seniors and injuries from falls. A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that falls were the leading cause of traumatic brain injury among seniors. A related study by a Canadian research group showed that senior citizens were nearly 30 percent more likely to be hospitalized for TBI due to a fall than patients of other age groups.
Source: Bel Marra Health
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