A Study on the Effects of Concussion and Head Impacts on the Acceleration of Brain Aging
Brain aging can be sped up by concussions and lesser impacts to the head. These impacts cause signaling pathways in the brain to deplete quicker than in people who haven’t suffered a brain injury.
The University of Michigan studied a group of college students, ranging from zero head impacts to severe head trauma. They found changes in gait, balance, and electrical activity within the brain, especially in attention and impulse control. On the outside, all participants looked the same, but signs of decline were present as soon as six years after. Their hypothesis is that “concussions and head impacts accelerate the brain’s natural aging process.” However, their study doesn’t imply that just because a person had a concussion, they’re going to get Alzheimer’s or experience rapid aging of their brain. Their hypothesis merely leads to the conclusion that getting hit in the head can cause other problems, but it’s not a definite explanation of how everything comes together. Other lifestyle choices can also cause your brain to age quicker, such as smoking, high levels of stress or family issues.
How it works
The University conducted the study by asking participants to perform tasks in front of a computer and imaging their brains. They concluded that people without head injuries had a greater amount of electrical activation versus those with a head injury. Comparing our brain signal to a highway, UM stated, “On a new highway, traffic runs smoothly and quickly as all lanes are in top shape. However, during normal aging, the asphalt deteriorates and lanes might become bumpy or even unusable. Traffic slows.” Our brains are going to age no matter what, but what the researchers are implying is that impacts to the head can cause the rate to increase. Brain aging essentially means that the pathways within our brain begin to break down and can’t transfer the information as quickly as they used to, and the head trauma can cause bumps in the road which cause traffic to build up.
The more concussions and head impacts a person receives, the higher the risk that the rate of aging of the brain increases. The researchers will continue their study by testing older people.
With all the recent investigations into concussions relating to professional football and hockey, this article comes at a timely manner. I agree with this article; the more head trauma a person receives, the higher the risk of quicker brain aging. Just as is the case with professional athletes who have multiple head traumas over the course of 20+ years. They have a higher rate of early dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression, and death. These results can be from a multitude of things or combinations from playing professional sports.