- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Military veterans who suffered even a light head injury are two times more likely to develop dementia later in life, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Monday.

The research, which followed 350,000 U.S. veterans at a San Francisco VA clinic, is one of the largest studies to add evidence that a light brain injury, without losing consciousness, can have detrimental long-term consequences.

There are at least 50 definitions of “mild traumatic brain injury” or TBI, and are diagnosed through imaging on an MRI or CT, any loss of consciousness or slight amnesia. Some subjects can report little to no symptoms.

The researchers point out it is a common injury in both the veteran and civilian population.

Trauma to the head can cause disruptions of the tau protein, which are essential in the proper functioning of the brain’s circuitry. Both Alzheimer’s patients and those who develop Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) have irregular patterns of tau in the brain, although these patterns can present themselves differently and in various parts of the brain.

Dementia affects nearly 3 million people in the U.S. It’s a catch-all term to describe the general breaking down of mental function and memory loss. Alzheimer’s disease, which affects between 60 and 80 percent of this population, is the most common type of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Of the 350,000 veteran participants of the study, half had been diagnosed with a mild TBI and the other half had no history of TBI.

The researchers found that, after accounting for age, other medical ailments and psychiatric disorders, that the lowest grade of TBI was associated with a 2.36 chance of dementia and increased as the injury severity also increased. Patients with mild TBI with loss of consciousness had a 2.51 chance of developing dementia.

Earlier research had shown an association between moderate to severe brain injuries and dementia, and the most recent study found supported this, finding participants who had a history of moderate to severe TBI had a 3.77 increased chance of developing the neurological disorder.

The finding is important for widening efforts of prevention and treatment of dementia, especially among the veteran population, the authors wrote.

The study was led by Deborah Barnes of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Health Care System.

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