What is the Relationship of Traumatic Brain Injury to Dementia?
There is a long history linking traumatic brain injury (TBI) with the development of dementia. Despite significant reservations, such as recall bias or concluding causality for TBI, a summary of recent research points to several conclusions on the TBI-dementia relationship. 1) Increasing severity of a single moderate-to-severe TBI increases the risk of subsequent Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most common type of dementia. 2) Repetitive, often subconcussive, mild TBIs increases the risk for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative neuropathology. 3) TBI may be a risk factor for other neurodegenerative disorders that can be associated with dementia. 4) TBI appears to lower the age of onset of TBI-related neurocognitive syndromes, potentially adding "TBI cognitive-behavioral features". The literature further indicates several specific risk factors for TBI-associated dementia: 5) any blast or blunt physical force to the head as long as there is violent head displacement; 6) decreased cognitive and/or neuronal reserve and the related variable of older age at TBI; and 7) the presence of apolipoprotein E ɛ4 alleles, a genetic risk factor for AD. Finally, there are neuropathological features relating TBI with neurocognitive syndromes: 8) acute TBI results in amyloid pathology and other neurodegenerative proteinopathies; 9) CTE shares features with neurodegenerative dementias; and 10) TBI results in white matter tract and neural network disruptions. Although further research is needed, these ten findings suggest that dose-dependent effects of violent head displacement in vulnerable brains predispose to dementia; among several potential mechanisms is the propagation of abnormal proteins along damaged white matter networks.
Department of Neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, CA, USA. Department of Neurology, Neurobehavior Unit, V.A. Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
Brain Injuries, Traumatic
Pub Type(s)Journal Article
Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural