A recent study shows that brain scans might help identify concussion-related illness known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (or CTE).
This condition is described through a series of symptoms: confusion, odd behaviors and various cognitive and psychiatric abnormalities. CTE is thought to develop as a result of “repeated blow to the head”, injuries often experienced during heavy contact sports such as boxing, hockey and football.
Up until now, the only way one could clearly diagnose the condition was after the patient’s death. Analyzing the brain of a CTE sufferer post-mortem would reveal disordered masses of proteins throughout various cerebral areas.
A new research brings hope to this otherwise hard to diagnose illness. There is a possibility that CTE could be identified in living patients with the help of brain scans. This means that patients could be diagnosed during the early stages which would mean a high chance of avoiding later consequences as patients could protect themselves from future brain injuries or get help early on, to prevent the development of cognitive or psychiatric abnormalities.
The study was conducted by a team of neuroscientists and radiologists from various universities including UCLA. They noticed former athletes with possible CTE had a “pattern of abnormal protein deposits” in the brain that is different from what they have seen in those suffering from Alzheimer’s and motor neuron disease.
The study consisted of conducting PET scans on 14 former football players, between the ages of 40 and 86. Except for one participant, all the others suffered from a combination of “cognitive impairment and anxiety or depression”. The scans identified the presence of cerebral protein deposits which looked like they would “track with the severity of those retired athletes’ symptoms of depression, anxiety and intellectual impairment”.
The participants also received MRI scans and neuropsychological examinations. The final results were later compared to the results of 19 healthy men and women and of 24 people suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Co-author Dr. Julian Bailes, the director of the Brain Injury Research Institute and chairman of the neurosurgery department at North Shore University Health System talked about the conclusions:
“The imaging pattern in people with suspected CTE differs significantly from healthy volunteers and those with Alzheimer’s dementia.”
He added that:
“These results suggest that this brain scan may also be helpful as a test to differentiate trauma-related cognitive issues from those caused by Alzheimer’s disease.”
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