Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can accelerate the rate of brain atrophy, according to a new study published in the Annals of Neurology. According to the study, the brains of patients with TBI were estimated to be older than their actual chronological age. The study examined patients who had suffered brain injuries from car accidents, falls, sports injuries and assaults.
The study used neuroimaging of the brain, which has been accepted as a method of estimating the age of healthy individuals. The researchers compared 99 patients with TBI and persistent neurological problems to 113 healthy people. Eighty-three percent of the TBI patients had moderate to severe brain injuries and 17 percent had mild injuries.
The study found that the neuroimaging model was able to predict the age of the healthy individuals with a high degree of accuracy. However, the model predicted TBI patients to be older than they actually were, and the degree of the discrepancy was correlated with the severity of their injuries.
The researchers concluded that TBI may trigger ongoing neurodegenerative processes that lead to progressive atrophy and hasten the brain’s aging process, though brain atrophy was only significant in TBI patients with moderate to severe brain injuries.