A study indicates a history of concussion, including at least one momentary loss of consciousness, may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by contributing to the build-up of Alzheimer’s-associated plaques in the brain.
Researchers at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota conducted brain scans of 448 people without any thinking or memory problems and 141 individuals with mild cognitive difficulties. All the participants were 70 or older.
Each group was asked whether they had experienced a brain injury that involved a temporary loss of consciousness or memory.
Seventeen percent of the cognitively normal participants said they had had a brain injury and 18 percent of those with memory and thinking difficulties reported suffering a concussion or head trauma.
The study found no differences in brain imaging measurements among the cognitively healthy individuals, whether or not they had experienced a brain injury. However, in those with mild cognitive impairment and a history of concussion, the scans revealed an 18 percent higher level of amyloid plaques. Those protein deposits in the brain are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
Lead researcher Michelle Mielke calls the findings interesting, suggesting there may be a relationship between concussion and Alzheimer’s disease.