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A new study performed by a team at the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) showed that even mild head injuries, such as concussions, may be associated with developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The team studied the brains of 160 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Some of the participants had suffered one or more concussions, and others had never experienced a concussion. Researchers used MRI scans to measure the thickness of the participants’ cerebral cortex in 14 regions of the brain. The regions scanned included seven that are typically the first to show signs of atrophy in Alzheimer’s disease and seven control regions – or regions not known to atrophy when affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

What they found is that areas of the brain first affected by Alzheimer’s disease also seem susceptible to lower cortical (brain cortex) thickness in participants who had experienced one or more concussions. According to lead study author, Dr. Jasmeet Hayes, PhD and assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, their study results “suggest that when combined with genetic factors, concussions may be associated with accelerated cortical thickness and memory decline” in the areas of the brain relevant to Alzheimer’s disease development.

In simpler language, it appears that mild head injuries wear down the body’s/brain’s defenses of the areas of the brain where the first physical signs of Alzheimer’s disease often appear, and people with certain genetic predisposition are at even greater risk. Before the results of this study were published, the medical community knew that severe traumatic brain injury was a major risk factor for developing neurogenerative diseases, including late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. But this study was the first that showed evidence that less severe head injury could also lay the groundwork for Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Hayes says the study results can, early in one’s lifetime, help detect how concussion affects degeneration of the brain. The average age of the study participants was 32, and the group that had experienced concussion already showed signs of susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease. What he hopes is that the study results may lead researchers to find the mechanisms within the brain and body that seem to accelerate the onset of neurogenerative diseases so, perhaps, they’ll have some luck in finding treatments that can slow the progression or even stop the diseases before they begin.

At Home Care Assistance, we work toward helping our clients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia live better, more fulfilling lives. Through our Cognitive Therapeutics Method (CTM), we work to help prevent the onset of cognitive decline in individuals who are cognitively healthy and to slow progression in those who are experiencing some form of mild cognitive impairments. Through one-on-one, personalized activities that can be done in the comfort of our clients’ homes, we offer activities that promote sustained daily functioning and quality of life for individuals who want to take a proactive approach to the long-term brain health of themselves or a loved one. Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease on our website.

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