Traumatic Brain Injury and Alzheimer’s Disease

Chelsy Foulk, SN

Common features associated with both Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Alzheimer’s disease have been noted. These include, but are not limited to, inflammatory processes and accumulation of proteins contributing to cell death. Furthermore, a recent study published in January 2017 found common predictors for reduced cortical thickness discovered in brain regions associated with early Alzheimer’s. These factors are TBI and genetic risk. The study involved 160 Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans between the ages of 19 and 58.

“There were three main findings. First, the combination of mild TBI exposure and high polygenic risk for Alzheimer’s disease was associated with reduced cortical thickness in Alzheimer’s disease-vulnerable brain regions. Second, cortical thinning in Alzheimer’s disease-vulnerable regions was accelerated post-injury (indexed by years elapsed since the last reported mild TBI) among males with high genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Finally, mild TBI and polygenic risk-related cortical thinning was associated with reduced delayed episodic memory recall.”(Hayes, 2017)

This study gives further insight into damage that TBIs can cause. It finds commonality between TBI and Alzheimer’s by way of reduced cortical thickness. It encourages the documentation of head injuries by health care professions, as TBIs and genetic risk can result in possible long-term neurodegenerative disease amongst other health consequences.

Hayes, J. P., Logue, M. W., Sadeh, N., Spielberg, J. M., Verfaellie, M., Hayes, S. M., . . . Miller, M. W. (2017). Mild traumatic brain injury is associated with reduced cortical thickness in those at risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Brain. doi:10.1093/brain/aww344

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