Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy has been making headlines ever since it was discovered that most of the brains submitted to brain banks by deceased NFL players showed signs of the disorder. There has been a lot of concern over how many living athletes may be dealing with the symptoms from CTE.
CTE is a degenerative brain condition associated with memory loss, confusion, progressive dementia, depression, suicidal behavior, and personality changes. It is believed to be caused by repeated traumatic brain injuries.
Despite the interest in trying to protect athletes and the high profile of TBI and all of its associated issues, there has been no method for early detection or tracking of the brain pathology developed for these issues, but one group of UCLA researches believe they may have been able to identify heightened levels of a protein believed to be associated with CTE.
CTE is believed to be caused by a buildup of the tau protein, which UCLA researchers have identified in the brains of five retired NFL players, who are still living. They noticed it with the use of brain imaging tools, marking the first time the tau protein has been able to be found before death or autopsy.
Their initial findings have been published in the latest online issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, with a press release posted through Eurekalert.
The hope for the results is to find strategies for intervention for those with early symptoms associated with CTE, rather than trying to repair the brain once the damage has become extensive.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Gary Small, UCLA’s Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging said, “Early detection of tau proteins may help us to understand what is happening sooner in the brains of these injured athletes,” but of course that will take more extensive studies to discern.