A new study has provided insight into the behavioral damage caused by repeated blows to the head and may establish a foundation for better understanding and development of ways to detect and prevent brain injuries that may lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The research, published online in the Journal of Neurotrauma, shows that mice with mild, repetitive traumatic brain injury (TBI) develop a number of the same behavioral problems, such as memory problems and issues with judgment, that have been linked to the condition in humans.

The experiments described in the study were designed in a manner that simulates the type of mild TBI that can occur in sports or other blows to the head. The research team evaluated the mice’s performance in a series of tasks intended to measure behavior, which included tests to measure spatial and learning memory, the electrical activity of their brain, and anxiety and risk-taking behavior. The results of the study showed that the mice with repetitive mild TBI performed poorly in every test, and the poor performance persisted over time.

Anthony L. Petraglia, MD, says, “This new model captures both the clinical aspects of repetitive mild TBI and CTE. While public awareness of the long-term health risk of blows to the head is growing rapidly, our ability to scientifically study the fundamental neurological impact of mild brain injuries has lagged.”

Petraglia adds, “These results resemble the spectrum of neuro-behavioral problems that have been reported and observed in individuals who have sustained multiple mild TBI and those who were subsequently diagnosed with CTE, including behaviors such as poor judgment, risk taking, and depression.”

Petraglia states, “Undoubtedly, further work is needed. However, this study serves as a good starting point and it is hoped that with continued investigation this novel model will allow for a controlled, mechanistic analysis of repetitive mild TBI and CTE in the future, because it is the first to encapsulate the spectrum of this human phenomenon.”

[Source: University of Rochester Medical Center]