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The connection between traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer’s

March 30, 2012 by Steven M. Gursten

Study shows brain injury survivors, even younger ones, suffer accelerated neurodegeneration

As a Michigan brain injury attorney, I have a unique challenge when helping many of my clients who have suffered “mild” traumatic brain injury in car accidents and truck accidents. It’s my job to explain to cynical insurance company adjusters and sometimes to juries not only the hardships that someone who looks “normal” and talks “normal” will face, but also show what may await them in the future.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a serious injury, and a progressive disease, that has long-term complications. But explaining this to people means explaining that we live in a scary, and sometimes very fragile world. There are a lot of people who don’t want to accept and believe that. It is sadly just one more of the many hardships that brain injury survivors must face on a daily basis.

Traumatic brain injury is often called the “invisible epidemic,” because brain injury survivors often do appear to look and speak normally. But in reality, their brains are going through complex changes that affect their behavior, their personalities, the way they think and their overall health. The symptoms of brain injury often can change over time, and for some people the complications of this complex process worsen over time. Defense lawyers and the insurance “go-to” doctors they hire always say the person is malingering when people get worse instead of better, but the science and medicine points a different way.

A recent study illustrates this point. It says that years after a single traumatic brain injury, survivors still show changes in their brains. And beyond the immediate effects, a single brain injury may initiate long-term processes that further damage the brain.

Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania are suggesting that Alzheimer’s disease-like neurodegeneration may be initiated or accelerated following a single traumatic brain injury — even in young adults.

In more simple terms, neurodegeneration is the progressive loss of structure or function of neurons. You’re probably familiar with many neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s, which occur as a result of neurodegeneration.

According to this study, TBI is an established risk factor for later development of cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Said Douglas Smith, MD, professor of Neurosurgery and director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, the study’s co-senior author: “A single traumatic brain injury is very serious, both initially, and as we’re now learning, even later in life.”

The study appears online in Brain Pathology, and was conducted with neuropathologist Dr. William Stewart, from the University of Glasgow and Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, UK. Researchers examined post-mortem brains from 39 long-term survivors of a single traumatic brain injury (those who lived from one to 47 years after TBI), and compared them to uninjured, age-matched counterparts.

The findings show that two hallmark pathologies of Alzheimer’s disease can be found years after a single TBI. They may provide a pathological link with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition, future research to better understand this long-term neurodegenerative process after a single TBI may reveal important targets for treatment with emerging therapies, according to the Centre for Neuro Skills.

You can still help our lawyers raise money for traumatic brain injury survivors in Michigan – and without reaching into your wallets!

There’s still time to help raise $10,000 for the Brain Injury Association of Michigan.

Brain Injury Awareness Month in March is coming to a close, but our attorneys are working on raising $10,000 for brain injury survivors. You can help without paying a dime, just with a click of your mouse:
For every “Like” Michigan Auto Law receives on Facebook, we will donate $1 — up to $10,000 — to the Brain Injury Association of Michigan.

Here’s our Michigan Auto Law Facebook page.

Thank you for all of your “Likes” and support throughout this important month. Brain injury awareness affects us all.

Steven M. Gursten is a brain injury attorney and head of Michigan Auto Law. He is a member of the Executive Board of the American Association for Justice Traumatic Brian Injury Lawyer Group and sits on the lawyer committee of the Sarah Jane Brain Project. Steve has received the highest reported trial verdict and settlement for a TBI lawsuit in Michigan, according to published reports by Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

Related information to protect yourself:

8 tips to keep your brain healthy

What is traumatic brain injury?

Choosing a traumatic brain injury lawyer

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm in the state exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident lawsuits. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights. Call (800) 968-1001 to speak with one of our Michigan brain injury attorneys today.

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