rsnaResearchers report that the distribution of white matter brain abnormalities in some patients following concussion bears a “striking” resemblance to those found in early Alzheimer’s dementia. Saeed Fakhran, MD, assistant professor of radiology in the Division of Neuroradiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, adds that, “Additional research may help further elucidate a link between these two disease processes.”

The study was designed to determine if there was a link between white matter injury patterns and severity of post-concussion symptoms in concussion patients with normal findings on conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. A news release reports that researchers studied data from imaging exams performed on 64 concussion patients and 15 control patients, using diffusion tensor imaging.

According to the results, among the concussion patients, sports injury was the reason for concussion in two-thirds of the patients. The patients underwent neurocognitive evaluation with Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT). The release notes that a significant correlation between high ImPACT total symptom score and reduced fractional anisotrophy at the gray-white junction, predominately in the auditory cortex. The results also indicate significantly decreased fractional anisotropy was found in patients with sleep-wake disturbances in the parahippocampal gyri relative to the patients without sleep-wake disturbances.

Fakhran states that the results spotlight the brain’s response to injury in concussion as a key issue, rather than the injury itself. “…Our preliminary findings suggest that the initial traumatic event that caused the concussion acts as a trigger for a sequence of degenerative changes in the brain that results in patient symptoms and that may be potentially prevented. Furthermore, these neurodegenerative changes are very similar to those seen in early Alzheimer’s dementia,” Farkhran says.

The researchers articulate the hope that the findings may ultimately lead to improved future treatments.

The study appears online in the journal Radiology.

Source: Radiological Society of North America