Penn Study: A Single Traumatic Brain Injury May Prompt Long-Term Neurodegeneration

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Media Contact:Kim Menard | Kim.menard@uphs.upenn.edu | 215-662-6183July 19, 2011

Years after a single traumatic brain injury (TBI), survivors still show changes in their brains. In a new study, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania suggest that Alzheimer's disease-like neurodegeneration may be initiated or accelerated following a single traumatic brain injury, even in young adults.

Over 1.7 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury each year, and beyond the immediate effects, growing evidence demonstrates that a single TBI may initiate long-term processes that further damage the brain. TBI is an established risk factor for later development of cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer's disease.

"A single traumatic brain injury is very serious, both initially, and as we're now learning, even later in life," said Douglas Smith, MD, professor of Neurosurgery and director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine, the study's co-senior author. "Plaques and tangles are appearing abnormally early in life, apparently initiated or accelerated by a single TBI."

The study appears online in Brain Pathology, and was done in conjunction with neuropathologist Dr. William Stewart, from the University of Glasgow and Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, UK.

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