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How suffering a concussion could lead to Alzheimer’s

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People who suffer a concussion are more likely to develop dementia, according to a new study. Research was carried out in which scans were performed on injured war veterans.

They showed that even mild head injuries wear down the brain’s defences, leaving people more likely to get Alzheimer’s. Evidence had already shown that severe brain injury was a risk factor in developing such conditions as dementia. However, this latest study has found that even mild injuries can increase the risk.

This latest piece of research is part of a growing body of research, including studies which have looked at the number of concussions in football and sport at school. The new study was carried out by a team at Boston University School of Medicine. It carried out brain scans on 160 veterans who had served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Some of them had suffered a concussion and some hadn’t.

MRI scans

MRI scans looked at how thick their cerebral cortex was, finding that having a concussion in the past was link with thinner cortical thicknesses in parts of the brain which are the first to be impacted in dementia. The research team concluded that, when combined to genetic risk factors, suffering a concussion could be linked with memory decline.

Researchers noted that brain abnormalities were found, even in veterans who were in their thirties. Doctors say it is now important to make sure that any concussion is documented in a patient’s medical notes so that risk of Alzheimer’s can be looked at.

Researchers now hope that others will add to their research by looking at what the exact mechanisms are which mean concussion can add to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s risk factors. It is hoped that this could lead to eventual treatments to prevent concussion from making concussion a risk factor.