[A version of this item appears in: Dementia: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWHT), Volume 2 Issue 1, August 2011].
Researchers at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow and the University of Pennsylvania have established a link between single head injuries and dementia.
It had previously been known that dementia is associated with sports which involve repeated blows to the head, such as boxing and football. It now appears that a physical abnormality occurs in the brain tissue of people who have had only single head injuries. The researchers examined brain tissue from 39 individuals following a brain injury, and 39 people who had not had a brain injury. They found abnormalities in one-third of the individuals following a head injury, in the form of unusually large numbers of proteins in their brains; similar to those found in older patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. The individuals showing these abnormalities were in their 40s and 50s.
It seems that a single brain injury can initiate a process in which the brain is damaged in further ways. Understanding this process might eventually throw light on how dementia develops, and could lead to potential treatments for dementia in the future.
Bradford, E. (2011). Head injuries can have ‘physical link to dementia’. Scotland: BBC News (Scotland), July 21st 2011.
Johnson, VE. Stewart, W. [and] Smith, DH. (2011). Widespread Tau and Amyloid-Beta Pathology Many Years After a Single Traumatic Brain Injury in Humans. Brain Pathology (Zürich, Switzerland), June 29th 2011. [Epub ahead of print]. (Click here to view the PubMed abstract).