NFL Players: Concussions With Loss Of Consciousness Linked To Later Memory Problems and Brain Changes

C. Munro Cullum, PhD, ABPP Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology & Neurotherapeutics Pamela Blumenthal Distinguished Professor of Clinical Psychology Chief of Psychology Director of Neuropsychology Univ. of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, TX  75390-9044 MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
C. Munro Cullum, PhD, ABPP
Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology & Neurotherapeutics
Pamela Blumenthal Distinguished Professor of Clinical Psychology
Chief of Psychology , Director of Neuropsychology
Univ. of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, TX

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Cullum: My colleague and principal investigator of the study, Dr. John Hart and I have been interested in the acute and longer-term effects of traumatic brain injury for years, and because of my roles in the Alzheimer’s Disease Center and the Texas Institute for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, it seemed like a natural to begin studying older individuals with and without cognitive disorder who have a history of traumatic brain injury.  Our main findings are two-fold:

First, we demonstrated that a history of concussion with loss of consciousness (which make up only about 10% of all concussions) was associated with smaller memory centers in the brain (the hippocampus) and lower memory results in our sample of retired professional football players. Concussions that did not result in loss of consciousness did not show that same strong association.

Second, our data suggest that patients with a clinical diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (ie a memory disorder that does not grossly impair overall functioning but may lead to dementia) who also have a history of concussion with loss of consciousness show worse memory results and more brain atrophy than similar individuals diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment in the absence of a history of concussion.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Cullum: That having a history of concussion, even multiple concussions, may not predispose individuals to cognitive and brain changes later in life, but if any of those injuries did involve loss of consciousness, their risk of problems down the road may be increased.  That said, these are group data, and we cannot use the findings to predict outcome in individual cases, as more research is needed to explore the impact of potential additional and cumulative risk factors.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Cullum: 1)      We need to study larger groups of individuals with a history of concussion over time in order to evaluate changes with aging

2)      Studies of aging and dementia should include questions about concussion history

3)      Genetic and other potential environmental factors should be investigated with respect to later-life outcomes from concussion and more severe brain injuries

4)      Future research should include multimodal assessment techniques, including biomarkers, neuroimaging, neurobehavioral, and neuropsychological measures in order to better understand and fully capture the diversity of clinical outcomes following concussion.

Citation:

Jeremy F. Strain, Kyle B. Womack, Nyaz Didehbani, Jeffrey S. Spence, Heather Conover, John Hart Jr, Michael A. Kraut, C. Munro Cullum. Imaging Correlates of Memory and Concussion History in Retired National Football League Athletes. JAMA Neurology, 2015 DOI: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2015.0206

 

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: C. Munro Cullum, PhD, ABP (2015). Concussions With Loss Of Consciousness Linked To Later Memory Problems MedicalResearch.com

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