Listening for CTE: a preliminary study

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Researchers at Arizona State University have conducted a study using language to indicate changes to brain caused by conditions like CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). Published in the journal, Brain and Language, the research team which included Doctor Visar Berisha and Julie Liss, assessed the language skills in transcripts of interviews of 10 football players and 18 coaches and executives. Scientists have thought that the biological processes underlying brain changes could be identified before recognizable symptoms occur with language being a good indicator. As neurologically healthy individuals age the complexity of word usage and vocabulary remains stable until their mid-70’s. In this study, researchers found greater language changes in players as compared to the executives and coaches. While this preliminary study is too small to be a valid indicator of language change as an early indicator of neurological changes, the research team at Arizona State University is moving towards a larger scale study.

Language changes can be found in a number of neurological conditions other than CTE, such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Currently, the diagnosis  can only be confirmed at autopsy. This language-based study offers a diagnostic view into these illnesses which can speed up intervention and rehabilitation. In athletes at risk for CTE from multiple concussions these early warning signs can prevent the person from further injury.

Click here to read the New York Times story on this study.

About Rolf Gainer Ph.D.

Dr. Rolf Gainer is the founder of the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute at Brookhaven Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma as well as the Neurological Rehabilitation Institute of Ontario, in Toronto, Canada. Dr. Gainer is a psychologist with more than twenty-five years of experience in the treatment and rehabilitation of individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. Dr. Gainer has designed and operated innovative rehabilitation programs in the United States and Canada for individuals who have been regarded as difficult to serve. He is currently involved in conducting two outcome studies related to the long-term issues faced by individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. He has presented papers throughout the United States and Canada in many professional conferences and educational forums.

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