There are many different types of dementia, but today our blog is going to focus on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, otherwise known as CTE.
CTE is a tragic, neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated head injuries. Symptoms of CTE may include behavioral changes and difficulties, mood shifts and changes, and problems with thinking, judgement and reasoning. Sadly, symptoms generally do not occur until several years after injuries have occurred. CTE often progresses over time resulting in dementia.
CTE has clearly been linked to concussions and repetitive brain trauma. CTE is therefore very common among retired professional football players as well as boxers who have suffered such repeated trauma to the brain. It is also a risk for equestrians. Unfortunately anyone who has suffered multiple head injuries or even a singular injury is at an increased risk of developing CTE.
The repeated trauma triggers progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau. There are four stages of CTE.
Current researchers describe these stages as:
Stage I: This stage is marked by headache and loss of attention. It may also include short-term memory problems, depression, and aggressive tendencies. A couple of the individuals had had problems with executive function and explosivity.
Stage II: In this stage, individuals were more likely to have experienced headache, attention and concentration problems, mood swings, short-term memory loss, and impulsivity. Less commonly they may have also experienced suicidal thoughts and language problems.
Stage III: This stage is marked by the symptoms of the previous stages, with the possible addiction of visuospatial difficulties, more extensive cognitive and memory problems, and apathy. The authors say that at this stage, 75% of the individuals “were considered cognitively impaired.”
Stage IV: This stage is commonly associated with more significant cognition problems and memory loss. “Most subjects also showed profound loss of attention and concentration, executive dysfunction, language difficulties, explosivity, aggressive tendencies, paranoia, depression, gait and visuospatial difficulties,” the authors say. Over 30% were suicidal at some point, and a few experienced problems with physical movement known as Parkinsonism.
These changes in the brain can begin months, years, or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement. This brain degeneration is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually dementia.
CTE can only be officially diagnosed after death through an autopsy. In 37% of the individuals diagnosed with CTE they found that they also had another co existing neurodegenerative disease. These diseases include FTD, Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia with Lewy bodies, and Parkinson’s, disease dementia. These research findings suggest that once CTE develops, it can serve as a trigger for the formation of other pathological pathway formation and processes.
"What Is CTE? » CTE Center | Boston University." CTE Center RSS. Boston University CTE Center, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.