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Brain trauma and Alzheimer's disease

"One of the most robust environmental risk factors ever identified—and most consistently identified—for Alzheimer’s disease is head injury," says Dr. Samuel Gandy, Associate Director of the Mount Sinai Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. This finding has grave implications for those who have suffered brain injuries, and, in particular, military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

While the mechanisms are not precisely known, head trauma leading to dementia appears to create havoc in the brain that tears synapses.   Within hours of a head trauma, the plaque beta amyloid—one of the well-studied hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease—can be found in patients.

Some research points to a genetic component to Alzheimer's disease making one more susceptible to the consequences of trauma.  Although researchers have not found a single gene that causes Alzheimer's disease, the allele ApoE 4 on chromosome 19 is linked to an increased risk for the disease.  A study of boxers who possess ApoE 4, rather than another allele in the ApoE genotype  were found to have an increased severity of neurological defects after their time in the ring.

You can watch an expert panel discuss the link between Alzheimer’s disease and brain trauma my clicking here.

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