Concussions, and even milder head injuries, might speed up the pace at which your brain naturally ages. Injuries to the head cause signaling pathways in the brain to break down more quickly than they would if the injury had never been sustained.
Concussion Research from U.Michigan
The University of Michigan School of Kinesiology and Health System examined college studentsand compared those with a history of concussions to those without. They found significant differences in balance, gait, and the brain’s electrical activity. Interestingly, the differences were seen in attention and impulse control. As we age, the connections between the neurons in our brain become less smooth and less straight. The pathways breakdown and so the connections go more slowly. Most disturbingly, the declines were not short term — they were seen in the brain injury group as far as six years from the head injury. The differences between the groups was slight, but measurable.
Steven Broglio is an assistant professor of kinesiology and director of the Neurotrama Research Laboratory and wants to emphasize that people should not panic. Having a head injury in no way guarantees that your brain will age faster or that you will develop Alzheimer’s, scientists are not sure yet how these things interact or why head trauma might cause accelerated aging. Other things also impact the aging of your brain, including drugs, physical exercise, and “exercising” your brain. It is likely that concussions are just one factor out of many. It is also likely that one concussion isn’t enough to do the damage — it is repeated head injuries that really heighten your risk.