According to a Time magazine piece,the study looked at 64 patients who experienced concussions and compared their MRI brain scans a year after their injury to those of 15 healthy patients over the same time period. "The images picked up white matter, which is made up of nerves and their protective coating, myelin, which facilitates connections between nerves in different regions of the brain. Networks of these nerves are responsible for cognitive functions such as memory, planning and reasoning. The scans revealed that the damage to the white matter in the concussion patients was similar to that of Alzheimer’s patients, whose nerves gradually died after being strangled by expanding plaques of amyloid proteins."
Furthermore, researchers found similar sleep distrubance patterns between the two groups, which could contribute to memory lapses. “When we sleep, the brain organizes our experiences into memories, storing them so that we can later find them. The parahippocampus is important for this process, and involvement of the parahippocampus may, in part, explain the memory problems that occur in many patients after concussion,” Dr. Saeed Fakhran, an assistant professor of radiology at the University of Pittsburgh, said in a prepared statement.
Head trauma is just one of many ways dementia can occur. According to Dr. Danel Sewell, a psychiatrist who specializes in geriatrics at UCSD, some other ways involve changes in the body's chemistry. During yesterday's Town Hall Forum by ActivCare Residential Living, Dr. Sewell briefly mentioned numerous other causes, such as ALS, "mad cow" disease, HIV/AIDS, Huntington's, multiple sclerosis, neuropsyphilis, normal pressure hydocephalus and Parkinson's.
Some others, however, relate to chemical exposure, irregular organ function or a nutritional deficiency. Here among Dr. Sewell's list are some other causes of dementia (and Alzheimer's is just one type of dementia accouting for 55% to 60% of cases).
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Heavy metal poisoning
- Major depression
- Thaimine deficiency
- Vitamin B12 deficiency