Scientists from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London have just released the results of a study which show that the protein clumps or amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease have also been found in the brains of middle-aged people who have suffered a head injury. While previous studies have shown that these plaques are present shortly after a brain injury, this is the first piece of research to indicate that they are still there over 10 years after the initial injury. These findings may help to explain why people appear to have an increased risk of developing dementia after they have suffered a serious brain injury. It may also help scientists to develop treatments to reduce this risk.
While research has suggested that major head trauma may increase the risk of dementia later in life, the biological changes that cause this are still unknown. Even though patients may appear to have made a good recovery outwardly, they often have persistent problems, such as issues with concentration or memory, which can have a detrimental effect on their daily life and activities. Furthermore, research is showing that experiencing head trauma can trigger biological processes in the brain that continue to persist for years after the event.
Imperial College research
The research by Imperial College was published in a recent edition of the journal Neurology, and used the results of nine patients aged between 38-55 with moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries to formulate their conclusions. The majority of patients had sustained a head injury in a road traffic accident between 11 months and 17 years prior to the study taking place.
Despite the fact that they had no lasting physical problems arising from the injury, many still experienced issues with their memory and concentration on a daily basis. The participants were given a brain scan to enable the researchers to view the amyloid plaques in the brain. The team also gave brain scans to groups of healthy volunteers and people with Alzheimer’s disease. The scans from the people with brain injuries showed more amyloid plaques than those of the healthy volunteers however, they did have fewer plaques than those of the group with Alzheimer’s.
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