Even Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) causes long term brain damage

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There has been a great deal of focus on mild TBI (mTBI) in sport and youth in Canada. This recent study raises even greater concerns on the long-term impacts of mTBI on the future of children’s capacity to learn and succeed. We know that brain injury is the silent injury, often hard to detect and easily concealed in some cases.

A new study published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology has found that mild TBI in mice can cause not only acute symptoms in the brain, but can trigger a long term, lifelong degenerative process in their brains.

Mice were subjected to repetitive mild TBI showed clear evidence of learning impairments at 24 months of age. They also showed memory impairment and a lack of spatial memory along with some deficits in their motor skills. Researchers also noted ongoing degeneration of neuron projection, and neuroinflammation.

More importantly the changes were also noted in 24-month-old mice who had only sustained one mild TBI. This group had more mild degeneration and memory impairments, but they showed signs of impairment nonetheless.

Researchers noted that:

“This is the first demonstration of what is, in essence, lifelong behavioural and pathological consequences of mild TBI in a relevant pre-clinical model. Read with our previous characterisations at earlier time points in survival from injury, we can now see not only that repetitive mild TBI can precipitate lifelong and evolving pathology, but that even just a single mild TBI at a young age can lead to changes over normal ageing at very late survival points.”, Dr. William Stewart, of the University of Glasgow, UK

and

“This recognition of lifelong consequences of mild TBI in this model provides a promising platform for studies into processes driving these pathologies, and also strategies for their prevention,”, lead author Dr. Benoit Mouzon, Roskamp Institute in Florida.

The researchers concluded that:

In this context, our current data demonstrate, for the first time, that rather than an acute, time limited event, mild TBI can precipitate a lifelong degenerative process. These data therefore suggest that successful treatment strategies should consider both the acute and chronic nature of mTBI.

Brain injury is a key risk factor in the development of neurodegenerative diseases as well, particularly CTE (chronic encephalopathy) which we are seeing in many former boxers, football players and hockey players.

Researchers are hopeful that this study will help guide further research into the human brain, prevention and treatment of mTBI in young people.