UCLA Study Links Traumatic Brain Injury to Increased Risk of Parkinson’s Disease
Traumatic brain injury usually occurs after repeated blows to the head, but can also be caused after just one serious blow that damages brain tissue. Many news reports have highlighted traumatic brain injury in war veterans and professional football players, but even civilians involved in car accidents or falls can suffer a traumatic brain injury.
Researchers at UCLA have studied the link between traumatic brain injury and an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, one of the terrible side-effects of long-lasting brain injury. The study concluded that losing one type of neuron can lead to both TBI and, later, Parksinson’s.
The pre-clinical study observed the brains of rats, who lost 15% of their nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons after suffering a traumatic brain injury. The loss progressed to 30% after 26 weeks had passed.
When the nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons disappear, the change in brain composition can lead to cardinal motor symptoms like tremors, rigidity, and limb shaking seen in Parkinson’s patients. These neurons are involved in the production and release of dopamine, which controls not only mood – and a lack of dopamine can lead to depression or suicidal thoughts, also often observed in traumatic brain injury and Parkinson’s patients – but also motor function.
Although traumatic brain injury has been linked for years to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, the UCLA study has finally offered one explanation.
“We found that with a moderate traumatic brain injury, the loss of neurons was too small in number to cause Parkinson’s disease, but it is enough to increase the risk of PD,” said Dr. Marie-Francoise Chesselet, a professor of neurology and chair of the UCLA Department of Neurobiology, and senior author of the study. “By decreasing the number of dopaminergic neurons, any further insult to the brain will be attacking a smaller number of neurons; as a result, the threshold for symptoms would be reached faster.”
Chesselet added that, “shortly after a traumatic brain injury, these neurons are more vulnerable to a second insult.”
Although some chemicals, like the pesticide paraquat, have also been linked to neuron loss and can aggravate traumatic brain injury or Parkinson’s symptoms, the study did not include these chemicals. The results of trauma on the rats’ brains showed that a serious enough TBI is sufficient to lose 30% of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons.
The Strom Law Firm Can Help Traumatic Brain Injury Sufferers
If you have suffered a traumatic brain injury due to another’s negligence, such as a car accident caused by distracted driving or DUI, failure to maintain property, or a defective product or device, you may be focused on maintaining your health and learning to live with the side effects. However, you do not have to suffer mounting medical bills, lost job or wages, and financial instability alone while you heal. The South Carolina personal injury attorneys at the Strom Law Firm know that traumatic brain injury can drastically change your life forever, and you may need financial help. We offer free, confidential consultations to discuss what caused your traumatic brain injury and decide if you qualify for a personal injury case. Do not hesitate to contact us. 803.252.4800