A new paper by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) argues that there is a widespread misunderstanding about the true nature of traumatic brain injury and how it causes chronic degenerative problems.
In a perspective article* published in the latest issue of Neurotherapeutics, the two authors – Alan Faden, MD, a neurologist and professor of anesthesiology, and David Loane, PhD, an assistant professor of anesthesiology, propose that chronic brain damage and neuropsychiatric problems after trauma are to a large degree caused by long-term inflammation in the brain. In their view, this inflammation is a key culprit behind the myriad symptoms that have been linked with traumatic brain injury and mild traumatic brain injury, including brain atrophy, depression and cognitive decline.
Dr. Faden and Dr. Loane also say that there has been too much emphasis on a specific diagnosis known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the set of symptoms and pathology that has been found in some former professional football players. They argue that this may deflect focus from other mechanisms, which may be more important and treatable. They say that although chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a serious problem, relatively few people have been diagnosed with this condition. Instead, they contend, researchers and journalists should focus more on the fact that even repeated concussive impacts or mild traumatic brain injury may trigger chronic brain inflammation that can persist for years and cause lasting damage.