Brain injuries – can they accelerate the onset of neurodegenerative disease?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) may accelerate the onset of neurodegenerative diseases by up to five years, a major study has revealed.

The research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, confirms the findings of previous papers.

According to the report, TBI has been a long-associated risk factor in the development of Parkinson’s disease – a progressive disease of the nervous system characterised by tremor, muscular rigidity, and slow movement.

But the researchers found that brain injury may lower the threshold of the brain damage leading to the rapid development of symptoms.

This may lead to the onset of Parkinson’s disease five years earlier than those that have not experienced a TBI.

Patients who had experienced a loss of consciousness, meanwhile, showed Parkinson’s disease symptoms up to 10 years earlier than those without any previous head trauma – increasing the risk of Parkinson’s by nearly three times.

It is suggested that significant damage to the brain may lead to the increased loss of dopamine and dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain region involved in the control of voluntary movements, known as the substantia nigra.

Previous studies also point to brain injury as a major risk factor in developing neurodegenerative disease. One study, published last year, found that veterans who had experienced a loss of consciousness because of a brain injury were 71 per cent more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease compared to peers.

Click here to access the study.

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Posted in Brain Injury.