For years, the medical community has acknowledged that traumatic brain injury (or TBI) can lead to Parkinson’s disease. Now, more experts are beginning to understand exactly how TBI increases the risk of developing this disease.
Our attorneys routinely represent individuals and families of those who have sustained traumatic brain injuries as a result of motor vehicle accidents, workplace injuries, falls, defective products, and more. TBI can lead to a large range of symptoms, depending on the severity of the injury, the location of the injury, and the patient himself. Symptoms can thus range from headaches to permanent cognitive problems and even death.
Researchers at UCLA have isolated a specific neuron in the brain (nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons) which is lost after a victim suffers a traumatic brain injury. They have further confirmed that the loss of this neuron can trigger the development of Parkinson’s disease.
The study found that a moderately-severe TBI can trigger a fifteen percent loss of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons almost immediately, followed by an additional fifteen percent loss over the course of the next six months. The researchers also found that a TBI combined with another specific risk factor for Parkinson’s – exposure to the peticide paraquat (a commonly used herbicide worldwide) – this loss can occur far more rapidly.
The researchers emphasized that this level of neuron loss is not sufficient to cause Parkinson’s disease alone, but that this level of loss significantly increases the risk of developing the disease. But the researchers did not look at neuron loss after the six-month mark, so it is not known whether further neuron loss occurs in these victims over time. And the researchers also emphasized that a second brain injury could escalate this loss and create additional risk.
Nigrostraital dopaminergic neurons participate in the production of dopamine, a substance which in turn helps to regulate movement (among other things).
Victims who suffer this loss can then exhibit the symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as tremors, rigidity, and akinesia (movement problems).
This is not the first recent study connecting traumatic brain injury to a progressive neurological disorder. Several months ago, the brain injury attorneys of Passen Law Group wrote on the new research linking TBI to the development of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. This research suggests that many prominent sufferers of the disease, from physicist Stephen Hawking to Lou Gehrig himself, may have developed the disease in response to known traumatic brain injuries, rather than other causes.
The research was published in the online version of the Journal of Neurotrauma, and was conducted by Che Hutson, Ph.D., Dr. Marie-Francoise Chesselet, and others.
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