A new study published in the Journal of Neurotrauma may offer insight into the behavioral changes and problems caused by repeated brain injuries, as well as offering a model for new methods of preventing and identifying the neurodegenerative disorder chronic traumatic encephalopthy.
The research used mice to show that mild repetitive traumatic brain injury creates many of the same behavioral problems associated with CTE in humans, including difficulty sleeping, depression, judgement, and risk-taking issues.
Currently, no model exists for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, but the new animal study could potentially provide an important early-stage tool for understanding the condition and focusing research for future treatments.
“This new model captures both the clinical aspects of repetitive mild TBI and CTE,” said Anthony L. Petraglia, M.D., a neurosurgeon with the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and lead author of the study. “While public awareness of the long-term health risk of blows to the head is growing rapidly, our ability to scientifically study the fundamental neurological impact of mild brain injuries has lagged.”
Repeated traumatic brain injuries are widely believed to be a cause for the permanent brain disease CTE, as well as long-term neurological impairment in less extreme cases.
The study stimulated the type of TBI that tends to occur in sports or from other hits to the head in mice, who were then evaluated in a series of tasks designed to measure behavior. The tests included measurements of spatial and learning memory, anxiety and risk-taking behavior, sleep disturbances, and electrical activity in the brain.
The mice with repetitive mild TBI did poorly in every test, and their poor performance persisted over time.
“These results resemble the spectrum of neuro-behavioral problems that have been reported and observed in individuals who have sustained multiple mild TBI and those who were subsequently diagnosed with CTE, including behaviors such as poor judgment, risk taking, and depression,” said Petraglia.
“Undoubtedly further work is needed,” concluded Petraglia. “However, this study serves as a good starting point and it is hoped that with continued investigation this novel model will allow for a controlled, mechanistic analysis of repetitive mild TBI and CTE in the future, because it is the first to encapsulate the spectrum of this human phenomenon.”