Blows to Head Can Lead to Dirty Brains

Dec. 2, 2014

brain injuryIt the latest of a series of studies that are fundamentally changing the way scientists look at neurological disorders, new research shows that traumatic brain injury impairs the brain’s ability to clear waste, leading to the toxic accumulation of proteins and, ultimately, dementia. 

The new study – published in the Journal of Neuroscience – builds on the discovery that the brain has its own unique waste removal system.  That finding, which was made in 2012 by a team of researchers in the lab of Maiken Nedergaard , M.D., D.M.Sc., in University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine, revealed a plumbing system that piggybacks on the brain’s blood vessels and flushes cerebral spinal fluid through the brain tissue to wash away unwanted proteins and other debris.

The findings were made in mice, whose brains are remarkably similar to humans.  Subsequent studies have shown that this system – which researchers have dubbed the glymphatic system – primarily functions while we sleep and that is declines in effectiveness while we age.

The new research shows that after traumatic brain injury, this system begins to break down.  This allows tau, a protein that is shaken loose during the injury, to collect in the brain in toxic levels, forming tangles that lead to neurological damage.

You can read more about the study here.