fbpx

News

Pictured is a high-fidelity map of physician-scientist Nico Dosenbach’s brain while his dominant arm was in a cast for two weeks. The red and yellow areas of the MRI image represent previously undetected brain pulses. Dosenbach and colleagues at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that disuse of an arm causes the affected brain region to disconnect from the rest of the brain’s motor system within two days. However, spontaneous pulses maintain activity in the disused circuits until the region becomes active again when mobility is regained.

 

Previously undetected brain pulses may help circuits survive disuse, injury

Research may lead to treatment advances for patients with immobilizing illness, injury

By Washington University in St. Louis, June 15, 2020

 

To study brain activity, Nico Dosenbach, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, wore a fiberglass cast for two weeks.

A neuroscientist’s neon pink arm cast led him and fellow researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis to discover previously undetected neuronal pulses in the human brain that activate after an immobilizing illness or injury.

The pulses appeared on MRI scans used to measure brain activity of the neuroscientist and, later, two additional adults whose arms were in casts. The researchers compared those MRI images with scans of the scientists before and after their arms were put in casts.

The scans showed that the brain’s main circuits responsible for movement in specific areas of the body disconnected within 48 hours of a person wearing a cast that encumbered movement in such an area. Also during this time, “disuse pulses” emerged to maintain neural activity and allow the main motor circuits to reactivate if and when mobility was restored through physical therapy.

The findings, published online June 16 in Neuron, offer clues to how the brain’s billions of neurons — cells that transmit nerve impulses — can rewire and restore pathways after injury or illness. Understanding just what is behind this resiliency may lead to new therapies for people with broken limbs or recovering from strokes or other immobilizing conditions.

“Many scenarios exist in neurology in which a person doesn’t use an arm or a leg and, consequently, related brain circuits for an extended period of time,” said senior author Nico Dosenbach, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology. “In offering the best care to patients, it’s important to understand specifically what changes occur in brain function. Accurate understanding and mapping of these circuits may lead to advancements in treating patients who have lost use of their limbs.”

In 2015, Dosenbach — also an assistant professor of occupational therapy, of pediatrics, of radiology and of biomedical engineering — wore the pink cast for two weeks despite the fact he had no injury requiring one. He aimed to collect high-quality data using brain-imaging techniques to evaluate neural networks that control movement.

Many of the patients Dosenbach treats at St. Louis Children’s Hospital suffer from conditions that limit mobility and cause them to favor one side of the body. A common treatment is constraint-induced movement therapy, also known as forced-use therapy, which immobilizes the dominant arm with a cast, forcing the child to use the impaired arm.

“My goal was a better understanding of what my patients experience during therapy, although I acknowledge it’s more difficult for them because of their disabilities,” Dosenbach said.

He also wanted to pinpoint a timeline of when individual neural changes occur. Commonly, scientists gather MRI data from dozens of people and average it. “But I did not want to do that because everyone’s brain is anatomically different, and when MRI data are averaged, it all blurs together,” Dosenbach said.

So Dosenbach decided to wear a fiberglass cast on his dominant, right arm. It stretched from his fingertips to just below his shoulder. It was pink, the favorite color of his daughter, Maike, then age 2.

He wore it during the hot, humid summer. It itched. It was awkward. He had to learn how to change a diaper with one hand. 

Every day, he arose predawn to lie stiffly for 30 minutes for a resting-state functional MRI. He did this for the two weeks his arm was in the cast, as well as for the two weeks before and after.

During the six weeks, Dosenbach also wore accelerometers on both wrists to track the motor strength of his arms while performing basic tasks such as writing and moving objects.

“It wasn’t terrible, just unpleasant,” Dosenbach recalled. “But immediately, I noticed my right arm got worse, and my left hand got stronger. It was much faster than any of us expected.”

The MRI data showed that brain changes occurred within 48 hours. Additionally, the researchers measured a decrease in grip strength in his right arm — from 124 pounds of force to 90 during the two weeks he wore the cast.

“Once my cast was removed, my right hand began to grow stronger,” Dosenbach said. “My left returned to its former role, too.”

Surprised by such resiliency, Dosenbach and the study’s first author, Dillan Newbold, a MD, PhD student, conducted the same experiment on two “crazy-in-a-good-way” scientists — one who wore a fluorescent yellow cast decorated in doodles, the other a forest green cast that recalled childhood memories of camping.

Using a resting-state functional MRI scan, the researchers identified and measured the precise regions in each individual’s brain that controlled each casted arm, examining more than 20 hours of recordings for each person. These techniques allowed the researchers to discover and characterize the pulses.

Their MRI data nearly mirrored Dosenbach’s. The findings indicated that disuse of each arm caused affected neurons to disconnect from the rest of the brain’s motor system within two days. Newbold’s analysis revealed that throughout the time the casts were worn, spontaneous pulses maintained activity in the disused circuits until the neurons began firing again when mobility was regained.

“Finding the spontaneous pulses was incredible,” Newbold said. “People can be motionless, but their neurons seem to protect the brain from completely disengaging when it’s not being used. More research is needed, but this was the most exciting part of the study because of the clinical implications.”

 

CLICK HERE to read the original article
 

Computer Vision Syndrome

 

Caring for Your Vision with So Much Screen-Time!

Avoid “Computer Vision Syndrome”

By Carl Hillier, OD FCOVD

 
Most of us are engaged in “screen time” more than ever before—using Zoom/Skype/FaceTime as a tele-therapy platform. For many, this can be very successful, but also potentially very visually stressful.

We recommend the following guidelines to help minimize the following problems associated with excess screen-time—collectively known as “Computer Vision Syndrome”:

  • Cognitive Fatigue
  • Visual Fatigue/Eye Strain
  • Dry Eye Symptoms
  • Blurred Distance Vision
  • Headache
  • Neck and Shoulder Pain
  • Poor-Quality Sleep

 

Things to do to alleviate the symptoms above:

  • Take scheduled breaks from screen time at least every 30 minutes, walking away from the computer for at least 2 minutes.
  • During these 2 minutes, stand or sit in a very relaxed way and rotate your body without moving your feet—try to look behind you one way, then back to the other way as far as you are able.
  • Check each eye individually during these 2-minute breaks to ensure you are not losing distance vision from either eye.
  • Acquire optical quality lenses that deflect the harmful blue light that emanates from screens. Your optometrist can get the proper protective lenses for you.
  • Research-proven nutritional supplementation solutions:
    • Lutein (10 mg), Zeaxanthin (2 mg) and Mesozeaxanthin (10 mg)—to improve visual performance, sleep quality and decrease adverse physical symptoms
    • Omega-3—Minimum EPA: 400 mg; Minimum DHA: 960 mg
  • Stop screen time 2 hours before going to sleep.
  • Get outside as much as possible!

If you would like more advice on how to establish a strong visual foundation for the demands of online learning, just let us know. We can provide activities for you to do off-line that will help you maintain good vision while you are on-line!

Carl G. Hillier, OD FCOVD
Melissa C. Hillier, OD FCOVD
San Diego Center For Vision Care
SanDiegoCenterForVisionCare.com

CLICK HERE to download the original article
 


Ayn al Asad Air Base in western Iraq after an Iranian missile attack on Jan. 8. The number of service members experiencing symptoms associated with brain injuries has since topped 100. Photo Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

 

Brain Injuries Are Common in Battle.
The Military Has No Reliable Test for Them.

Traumatic brain injury is a signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the military still has no objective way of diagnosing it in the field.

By Dave Philipps and Thomas Gibbons-Neff for nytimes.com, February 15, 2020

 
U.S. troops at Ayn al Asad Air Base in western Iraq hunkered down in concrete bunkers last month as Iranian missile strikes rocked the runway, destroying guard towers, hangars and buildings used to fly drones.
When the dust settled, President Trump and military officials declared that no one had been killed or wounded during the attack. That would soon change.

A week after the blast, Defense Department officials acknowledged that 11 service members had tested positive for traumatic brain injury, or TBI, and had been evacuated to Kuwait and Germany for more screening. Two weeks after the blast, the Pentagon announced that 34 service members were experiencing symptoms associated with brain injuries, and that an additional seven had been evacuated. By the end of January the number of potential brain injuries had climbed to 50. This week it grew to 109.

The Defense Department says the numbers are driven by an abundance of caution. It noted that 70 percent of those who tested positive for a TBI had since returned to duty. But experts in the brain injury field said the delayed response and confusion were primarily caused by a problem both the military and civilian world have struggled with for more than a decade: There is no reliable way to determine who has a brain injury and who does not.

Top military leaders have for years called traumatic brain injury one of the signature wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; at the height of the Iraq war in 2008, they started pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into research on detection and treatment. But the military still has no objective tool for diagnosing brain injury in the field. Instead, medical personnel continue to use a paper questionnaire that relies on answers from patients — patients who may have reasons to hide or exaggerate symptoms, or who may be too shaken to answer questions accurately.

The military has long struggled with how to address so-called invisible war wounds, including traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite big investments in research that have yielded advances in the laboratory, troops on the ground are still being assessed with the same blunt tools that have been in use for generations.

The problem is not unique to the military. Civilian doctors struggle to accurately assess brain injuries, and still rely on a process that grades the severity of a head injury in part by asking patients a series of questions: Did they black out? Do they have memory problems or dizziness? Are they experiencing irritability or difficulty concentrating?

“It’s bad, bad, bad. You would never diagnose a heart attack or even a broken bone that way,” said Dr. Jeff Bazarian a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “And yet we are doing it for an injury to the most complex organ in the body. Here’s how crazy it gets: You are relying on people to report what happened. But the part of the brain most often affected by a traumatic brain injury is memory. We get a lot of false positives and false negatives.”

Without a good diagnosis, he said, doctors often don’t know whether a patient has a minor concussion that might require a day’s rest, or a life-threatening brain bleed, let alone potential long-term effects like depression and personality disorder.

At Ayn al Asad, personnel used the same paper questionnaires that field medics used in remote infantry platoons in 2010. Aaron Hepps, who was a Navy corpsman in a Marines infantry company in Afghanistan at that time, said it did not work well then for lesser cases, and the injuries of many Marines may have been missed. During and after his deployment, he counted brain injuries in roughly 350 Marines — about a third of the battalion.

After the January missile attack, Maj. Robert Hales, one of the top medical providers at the air base, said that the initial tests were “a good start,” but that it took numerous screenings and awareness among the troops to realize that repeated exposure to blast waves during the hourlong missile strikes had affected dozens.

Traumatic brain injuries are among the most common injuries of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in part because armor to protect from bullet and shrapnel wounds has gotten better, but they offer little protection from the shock waves of explosions. More than 350,000 brain injuries have been reported in the military since 2001.

The concrete bunkers scattered around bases like Ain al Assad protect from flying shrapnel and debris, but the small quarters can amplify shock waves and lead to head trauma.

The blasts on Jan. 8, one military official said, were hundreds of times more powerful than the rocket and mortar attacks regularly aimed at U.S. bases, causing at least one concrete wall to collapse atop a bunker with people inside.

Capt. Geoff Hansen was in a Humvee at Ayn al Asad when the first missile hit, blowing open a door. Then a second missile hit.

“That kind of blew me back in,” he said. “Blew debris in my face so I went and sat back down a little confused.”

A tangle of factors make diagnosing head injuries in the military particularly tricky, experts say. Some troops try to hide symptoms so they can stay on duty, or avoid being perceived as weak. Others may play up or even invent symptoms that can make them eligible for the Purple Heart medal or valuable veteran’s education and medical benefits.

And sometimes commanders suspect troops with legitimate injuries of malingering and force them to return to duty. Pentagon officials said privately this week that some of the injuries from the Jan. 8 incident had probably been exaggerated. Mr. Trump seemed to dismiss the injuries at a news conference in Davos, Switzerland, last month. “I heard they had headaches,” he said. “I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries I have seen.”

In the early years of the war in Iraq, troops with concussions were often given little medical treatment and were not eligible for the Purple Heart. It was only after clearly wounded troops began complaining of poor treatment that Congress got involved and military leaders began pressing for better diagnostic technology.

Damir Janigro, who directed cerebrovascular research at the Cleveland Clinic for more than a decade, said relying on the questionnaire makes accurate diagnosing extremely difficult.

“You have the problem of the cheaters, and the problem of the ones who don’t want to be counted,” he said. “But you have a third problem, which is that even if people are being completely honest, you still don’t know who is really injured.”

In civilian emergency rooms, the uncertainty leads doctors to approve unnecessary CT scans, which can detect bleeding and other damage to the brain, but are expensive and expose patients to radiation. At the same time doctors miss other patients who may need care. In a war zone, bad calls can endanger lives, as troops are either needlessly airlifted or kept in the field when they cannot think straight.

Mr. Janigro is at work on a possible solution. He and his team have developed a test that uses proteins found in a patient’s saliva to diagnose brain injuries. Other groups are developing a blood test.

Both tests work on a similar principle. When the brain is hit by a blast wave or a blow to the head, brain cells are stretched and damaged. Those cells then dispose of the damaged parts, which are composed of distinctive proteins. Abnormal levels of those proteins are dumped into the bloodstream, where for several hours they can be detected in both the blood and saliva. Both tests, and another test being developed that measures electrical activity in the brain, were funded in part by federal grants, and have shown strong results in clinical trials. Researchers say they could be approved for use by the F.D.A. in the next few years.

The saliva test being developed by Mr. Janigro will look a bit like an over-the-counter pregnancy test. Patients with suspected brain injuries would put sensors in their mouths, and within minutes get a message that says that their brain protein levels are normal, or that they should see a doctor.

But the new generation of testing tools may fall short, said Dr. Gerald Grant, a professor of neurosurgery at Stanford University and a former Air Force lieutenant colonel who frequently treated head injuries while deployed to Iraq in 2005.

Even sophisticated devices had trouble picking up injuries from roadside bombs, he said.

“You’d get kids coming in with blast injuries,” he said, “and they clearly had symptoms, but the CT scans would be negative.”

He was part of an earlier effort to find a definitive blood test, which he said in an interview was “the holy grail.” But progress was slow. The grail was never found, he said, and the tests currently being developed are helpful for triaging cases, but too vague to be revolutionary.

“Battlefield injuries are complex,” he said. “We still haven’t found the magic biomarker.”

CLICK HERE to go to the original article
 

 

What’s the difference between all the different head scans (X-Ray, CT, MRI, MRA, PET scan)? And what do they show in the head?

Michael S. Tehrani, M.D.Follow Founder & CEO at MedWell Medical

 
Ever wonder what’s the difference between all the different head scans (xray, CT, MRI, MRA, PET scan) and what they show in the head. Well wonder no more. The Dr. T easy to understand version…

X-Ray: shows bone/skull only. Does not show the brain. Best used to detect if there are bone fractures.

CT: a quick test. Shows brain but detail not great. Shows if any larger bleed, stroke, lesions, or masses.

MRI: a long test. Shows brain and detail is great. Shows smaller bleeds, stroke, lesions, or masses.

MRA:
shows the flow of blood in the vasculature system of the brain. If there is vessel narrowing or blockage this test would show it.

PET scan: shows how active different parts of the brain is. An active brain uses sugar as energy and pet scan detects how much sugar is being used by lighting up and turning different colors. The more sugar being used the more that area will light up and be different in colors. Cancer cells use the most sugar so cancer cells light up the most. PET scan is used to see if there are cancer cells. (Cancer cells replicate at a very fast and uncontrolled rate hence use a lot of sugar to allow that replication hence why they light up so much).

CLICK HERE to download the original article
 


High school injury reports analyzed by InvestigateWest and Pamplin Media show that girls are twice as likely to get concussions as boys in Oregon. Girls in the 13U age group, pictured above, are the youngest allowed to use headers.
 

The Concussion Gap: Head injuries in girls soccer are an ‘Unpublicized Epidemic’

Lee van der Voo, InvestigateWest, photos by David Ball / Pamplin Media Group

 
When it comes to concussion in sports, all eyes are on football, or so it seems. But it’s not just football that causes a high number of head injuries among young athletes.

Another culprit? Girls soccer.

National research has found girls are more likely to suffer a concussion than boys in any sport. In 2017, researchers at Northwestern University generated national headlines when they found concussion rates among young female soccer players were nearly as high as concussion rates for boys playing football — and roughly triple the rate of concussions in boys soccer.

In Oregon, injury reports from public high schools analyzed by InvestigateWest and Pamplin Media Group mirrored that trend, showing soccer concussions were second to those from football between 2015 and 2017. What’s more, at the schools that included the gender of injured athletes, there were nearly twice as many reports of possible concussions for girls playing soccer than boys in the sport.

The rate of concussions in girls soccer worries local experts like Jim Chesnutt, a doctor in sports medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, who says those injuries are not widely recognized, even as concussion rates rise for girls playing soccer.

“In a lot of ways, it’s a growing epidemic for young girls that I think has gone unpublicized,” said Chesnutt, co-director of the Oregon Concussion Awareness and Management Program and a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Traumatic Brain Injury.

More exposure, more injury

It’s understandable that much of the youth concussion conversation centers on football, given the physical contact that is visibly — and audibly — evident on every play, as well as the large rosters and the lengthy lists of players who are injured.

But if you compare girls soccer with football, and only look at the high school participation and injury data, “you’re missing a gigantic part of the picture,” according to Michael Koester, a doctor of sports medicine at the Slocum Center in Eugene. He directs its sports concussion program and serves as the chair of the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee for the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Koester notes that high school boys play eight to 10 football games per season, and typically play other sports in the off-season.

Girls, however, play 15 to 20 soccer games in a high school season, but when that season ends, they may play another 80-plus games throughout the winter, spring and summer with club teams, said Koester, who, like Chesnutt, is a medical adviser to the Oregon Schools Activities Association.

“If we’re looking at injury risk by athletic exposure,” which is one practice or game, a standard in evaluating risk, Koester said, female soccer players probably are playing five if not 10 times more practices and games than football players.

And Koester doesn’t see the trend ending.

“The thought used to be that this was all revolving around, ‘Wow! They want to get their kid a scholarship,’ ” he said. “Now it’s kind of gotten to the point where there’s so much single-sport participation that we see kids that are specializing in sport early, just so they’ll be able to make their high school team.”

Single-sport athletes are more prone to injury in any sport. According to a study by scientists at the University of Wisconsin, high school athletes who specialized in just one sport at an early age were twice as likely to suffer injuries to their lower extremities.

“We see a lot of overuse injury among girls playing soccer,” Koester said. “We see a lot of ACL injury among girls playing soccer. It’s a well-known problem.”

Aggressive play

Another factor is the evolution of sports.

Angella Bond is an athletic trainer for Tuality Sports Medicine and works on the sidelines with athletes at Hillsboro schools. Anecdotally, she said, all athletes push to be bigger, faster and stronger. Soccer is no exception, nor are girls.

As athletes develop, they take bigger hits at higher speeds, and competitive games build on their momentum. As competition grows in girls soccer, the sport is trending to be more aggressive, she said.

“Unfortunately, I think that happens with girls sports,” she said. “Arms fly a little bit more.”

Chesnutt agreed. “I think over the years, soccer has become more physical,” he said. “And I think the physical contact and the aggressive nature of that physical contact is more associated with concussions.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, soccer — unlike football, ice hockey and lacrosse — is not a “collision sport.” But it is a “contact sport” because athletes “routinely make contact with each other or inanimate objects.”

Header balls, though often singled out as a source of concussions, are not necessarily to blame.

The force created when a soccer ball meets a head can rattle a brain, but data increasingly points to other factors when competitors vie for a ball in the air.

According to a study by The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, while headers accounted for 27 percent of concussions, it was knocks with other players on aerial play — including head-to-head contact and arms and elbows to the head — and contact with the ground that accounted for 70 percent of those concussions in girls soccer, suggesting aggressive play is a factor in most concussions involving headers.

Why girls?

But why are girls more prone to concussions than boys while playing soccer? The prevailing theories focus on their weaker neck-muscle development, weaker body strength (needed to stabilize the neck and head during aerial play), and more frequent contact with the ground. A year ago, a study in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that female high school soccer players took twice as long as male players to recover.

It’s also possible that girls don’t benefit as much from early treatment. A recent study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that girls are five times more likely than boys to stay on the pitch and play through a head injury.

And the soccer community has been slow to recognize the hard hits its girls are taking. Instead, soccer is at the forefront of the cultural empowerment of girls.

Local experts concerned about concussion risk note that sports, including girls soccer, have plenty of benefits. Just being physically active is good for kids, and sports like soccer help establish lifelong fitness habits, teach team-building skills, and promote character development and assertiveness.

“The worry is that the take-home message is that (girls soccer) is healthy and fantastic and nothing can be bad about it,” said Koester, who says an opposite negative message, equally extreme, is more often associated with boys playing football.

Greater awareness needed

Concussion education and awareness in girls soccer is paramount, according to local experts such as Chesnutt.

“I think the way to decrease it is to really analyze how we can modify the amount of body contact that goes on in soccer to limit the dangerous aggressive behavior that is associated with concussion,” he said.

Unlike youth football, a sport that’s adjusting to new information about concussions all the time, soccer has largely failed to address new information about concussions, Chesnutt said.

Football, for example, has reduced head-to-head helmet play, limited full-contact practices and games, and zeroed in on the specialty teams with the highest concussion rates.

“Football has really done, I think, an exceptional job of identifying some areas where there have been some definite higher incidents and some problems,” said Chesnutt, who lectures nationally about youth concussions. “As a group of coaches, leagues, parents and referees, they’ve all looked at it and come up with some solutions that have decreased concussion rates. And I think it’s time for soccer to do the same thing.”

Read the original article
 

 

Top 10 Volunteer Opportunities in San Diego in 2019

September 25, 2019, by Mary at greatnonprofits.org

 
Want to volunteer or intern at a great San Diego nonprofit? Whether you’re new to the city and want to learn about its charities, trying to change up your routine with some local charity work, or just want to volunteer or intern at a neighborhood nonprofit, everyone knows that the best way to find the right place for you is from the people who’ve been there!

Here’s a list of volunteers’ and interns’ favorite San Diego charities. Every nonprofit on this list has earned an overall score of 4 or greater out of 5 on GreatNonprofits.org. If your favorite San Diego nonprofit or volunteer gig is missing, find it on GreatNonprofits.org, write a positive review, and show your co-volunteers how to start adding reviews and get it on the list!

Mayan Families
We just returned after 10 days working with Mayan Families. I, along with my daughter and nephew, have been volunteering with this great nonprofit for the past four years. The focus of our volunteering has been to raise money for the purpose of installing stoves for indigenous families living around Lake Atitlán. The beauty of this particular program, and most of the programs run by Mayan Families, is the direct and immediate impact they have on the recipients. We love the fact that we see where the money we raised is going and that we literally have a hand in helping change the lives of people who truly need the help.

“We continue to be impressed with Mayan Families’ dedication to its motto to ‘Educate, Feed, Shelter, Feed’ these wonderful people around Lake Atitlán.” –David Kujan

Sepsis Alliance
“As a small nonprofit, they do a tremendous job of spreading awareness about sepsis and as a result have reached millions of people to educate them about the signs and symptoms of this condition, albeit with their limited staff and budget.

“I feel confident in asking others for donations for this organization, as I have seen firsthand that they use their funds very effectively.” –Lynn S1

Labrador Rescuers
“Lab Rescue goes over and above to help match the right family with the right lab.

They have a great foster program that provides information about the traits of the labs to help find the right fit. We can improve our program by increasing the number of people helping to promote intake, fostering, adoptions, and fundraising.” –mobileUser381273

San Diego Dance Theatre
“The Dance Fierce program has served as an incredible creative outlet for students from all backgrounds and has united these students through the art of dance. Students who participate in this program are more well-rounded, expressive, and balanced. They pride themselves on their hard work and are more motivated every day through their experiences.” –Mmctighe

San Diego Brain Injury Foundation
“I ended up doing one of my internships at SDBIF. Never have I seen so few accomplish so much for so many on so little resources.

I can only imagine how much more dynamic and influential in helping those with brain injuries, myself included, this organization could be if they had additional funding. The ‘F’ signifying foundation should be changed to ‘Family’—as this organization helps us all to feel this way during very trying times that can last for years.” –Michael Murphy

College Area Pregnancy Services
“During the almost 14 years that I volunteered at CAPS as a counselor I witnessed firsthand the impact this place has on every client who comes in. Women from all ages come burdened with fear, confusion, and uncertainty. Volunteers and staff at CAPS are able to provide a safe, nonjudgmental place for these women where they find not only help and resources, but also a caring and personal environment. A comment I most often heard after a counseling appointment was ‘This place is so nice, I felt comfortable and welcomed here.’

“CAPS will be forever in my heart, and love to tell others about it.” –Ana_39

The League of Amazing Programmers
“The League has done an incredible job exposing young people to the vast world of computers in a way that is fun and interactive!

As a volunteer, I have seen kids develop confidence and problem-solving prowess before my very eyes, all while developing skills they will use for the rest of their lives!” –Mike D3

Mind Treasures
“I’ve had the privilege of volunteering with this wonderful organization for many years. Their program is changing the lives of the children one student and school at the time. Children are becoming aware of their hidden potentials and learning how to use these resources in their personal, family, and community finances.” –MT Volunteer 1

The Seany Foundation
“The passion that you see from those involved in this foundation is infectious. From the founders, board members, organizers, and volunteers you see an intense commitment to carry on the fight for whom this foundation is in honor of, Sean Robins. The rapidly accelerating success in awareness and donations is a testament to their effectiveness as an organization and their tremendous potential.” –Keenan 27

Voice of the Bride Ministries
“Voice of the Bride is a beautiful expression of community love and hard work. I’m constantly amazed at how far they manage to stretch each dollar and how many people they touch—be it by feeding families, helping community, or simply being a force of goodness in an area. They truly love the poor and give to the needy.” –FreckldFlower

Read the original article online
 

 

New Rules to Protect Your Kid’s Noggin

May 25, 2019, Parents Magazine

 
Children bonk their head all the time when they’re wrestling with siblings, playing soccer, and just being clumsy-and it’s easy to worry that a bump could turn into something bigger. After all, more than 800,000 kids in the U.S. get a concussion every year. For the first time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released specific “return to learn” and “return to play” guidelines for head injuries, based on 25 years of research. One doctor shares the big takeaways.

ALWAYS take any injury beyond a light head bump seiously. A concussion occurs when a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or a hit to the body makes the brain bounce or twist in the skull. This creates chemical changes and can sometimes damage brain cells. “If your child complains of a headache or dizziness, is nauseous or vomiting, appears dazed, or sleeps more or less than usual, it’s time to get a doctor’s evaluation,” says Dennis Cardone, D.O., associate professor of orthopedic surgery and pediatrics and co-director of the NYU Langone Concussion Center. Even toddlers can get a concussion from a tumble, so look for changes in their behavior such as not wanting to nurse or eat or losing interest in toys.

If diagnosed with a concussion, your child will need menlal rest, says Dr. Cardone. That means taking a break from all activities for two to three days, and after that, starting with light aerobic activity. He may need to attend school for only half the day or do little to no homework (he won’t mind this rule!). However, he shouldn’t return to any sports or strenuous activities that have a high risk of falling or contact (think: field hockey, gymnastics, climbing a tree) until he’s been cleared by his doctor, which should be within a few weeks.

Download the original article PDF
 


These brain facts dispel many brain myths based on outdated knowledge. Learn how the brain works, for better (or worse). The original article, link at the bottom of the page, has the fact citations

 

72 Amazing Human Brain Facts (Based on the Latest Science)

Created by Deane Alban | Reviewed by Patrick Alban, DC
Last updated on February 6, 2019
BeBrainFit.com

 
There are a lot of myths and misinformation about the brain that pass as brain “facts.”

This is somewhat understandable: The study of the human brain is one of the least explored areas in science and even experts agree that there is more we don’t know about the brain than we currently do know.

In recent years, our knowledge of the brain has exploded — most of what we know about the brain has been discovered in just the last 15 years.

So the real brain facts haven’t always entered mainstream awareness yet.

This is a newly expanded and updated article.

We will continue to update this as new information comes to light, but for right now, here are 72 fascinating brain facts, all backed by the latest science.

    HUMAN BRAIN FACTS BY THE NUMBERS

  1. The typical brain comprises about 2% of the body’s total weight, but uses 20% of its total energy and oxygen intake.
  2. Your brain is 73% water. It takes only 2% dehydration to affect your attention, memory and other cognitive skills.
  3. Ninety minutes of sweating can temporarily shrink the brain as much as one year of aging does.
  4. Your brain weighs about three pounds. Sixty percent of the dry weight is fat, making the brain the most fatty organ in the body.
  5. Twenty-five percent of the body’s cholesterol resides within the brain. Cholesterol is an integral part of every brain cell. Without adequate cholesterol, brain cells die.
  6. No one knows for sure, but the latest estimate is that our brains contain roughly 86 billion brain cells.
  7. Each neuron can transmit 1,000 nerve impulses per second and make as many as tens of thousands of synaptic contacts with other neurons.
  8. A piece of brain tissue the size of a grain of sand contains 100,000 neurons and 1 billion synapses, all communicating with each other.
  9. All brain cells are not alike. There are as many as 10,000 specific types of neurons in the brain.
  10. Your brain needs a constant supply of oxygen. As little as five minutes without oxygen can cause some brain cells to die, leading to severe brain damage.
  11. Babies have big heads to hold rapidly growing brains. A 2-year-old’s brain is 80% of adult size.
  12. As any parent can attest, teenage brains are not fully formed. It isn’t until about the age of 25 that the human brain reaches full maturity.
  13. Brain information travels up to an impressive 268 miles per hour. This is faster than Formula 1 race cars which top out at 240 mph.
  14. Your brain generates about 12-25 watts of electricity. This is enough to power a low-wattage LED light.
  15. There’s a reason the brain has been called a “random thought generator.” The average brain is believed to generate up to 50,000 thoughts per day.
  16. Every minute, 750-1,000 milliliters of blood flows through the brain. This is enough to fill a bottle of wine or liter bottle of soda.
  17. Your brain can process an image that your eyes have seen for as little as 13 milliseconds — less time than it takes for you to blink.
  18.  
    FUN FACTS ABOUT BRAIN SIZE

  19. In general, men’s brains are 10% bigger than women’s, even after taking into account larger body size. However, the hippocampus, the part of the brain most strongly linked with memory, is typically larger in women.
  20. Albert Einstein’s brain weighed 2.71 pounds (1,230 grams) — 10% smaller than the average of 3 pounds (1,400 grams). However, the neuron density of his brain was greater than average.
  21. Neanderthal brains were 10% larger than our Homo sapiens brains.
  22. While humans have the largest brains proportional to body weight of all animals, we don’t have the biggest brains. That distinction belongs to sperm whales with 17-pound brains.
  23. Human brains have gotten significantly smaller over the past 10-20,000 years. The lost volume is equivalent to the size of a tennis ball.
  24. The hippocampus, the part of the brain considered the “memory center,” is significantly larger in London cab drivers. This is due to the mental workout they get while navigating the 25,000 streets of London.
  25.  
    THE EFFECTS OF THE MODERN LIFESTYLE ON THE BRAIN

  26. Chronic stress and depression are rampant in modern life. Either can cause measurable brain shrinkage.
  27. The modern diet is low in omega-3 essential fatty acids. Low levels of omega-3s result in brain shrinkage equivalent to two years of structural brain aging.
  28. Since the Victorian era, average IQs have gone down 1.6 points per decade for a total of 13.35 points.
  29. Technology has forced most of us to be prodigious multitaskers. But your brain can’t learn or concentrate on two things at once. What it can do is quickly toggle back and forth between tasks. But doing so decreases your attention span, ability to learn, short-term memory, and overall mental performance.
  30. Unexpectedly, millennials (aged 18 to 34) are more forgetful than baby boomers. They are more likely to forget what day it is or where they put their keys than their parents!
  31. Attention spans are getting shorter. In 2000, the average attention span was 12 seconds. Now, it’s 8 seconds. That’s shorter than the 9-second attention span of the average goldfish.
  32. Brain cells cannibalize themselves as a last ditch source of energy to ward off starvation. So, in very real ways, dieting, especially low-fat diets, can force your brain to eat itself.
  33. Over 140 proteins in the brain are negatively impacted by exposure to electromagnetic frequencies, the kind emitted by your cell phone and other electronic devices.
  34. Relying on GPS to navigate destroys your innate sense of direction, a skill that took our ancestors thousands of years to develop and hone. When areas of the brain involved in navigation are no longer used, those neural connections fade away via a process known as synaptic pruning.
  35.  
    BRAIN FACTS UPDATE: MYTHS DEBUNKED

  36. The popular myth that we use only 10% of our brains is flat-out wrong. Brain scans clearly show that we use most of our brain most of the time, even when we’re sleeping.
  37. There is no such thing as a left-brain or right-brain personality/skill type. We are not left-brained or right-brained; we are “whole-brained.”
  38. In spite of what you’ve been told, alcohol does not kill brain cells. What excessive alcohol consumption can do is damage the connective tissue at the end of neurons.
  39. The “Mozart effect” has been debunked. While listening to certain kinds of music can improve memory and concentration, there’s nothing unique about listening to Mozart.
  40. You may have heard that we have more brain cells than there are stars in the Milky Way, but this is not true. Best-guess estimates are that we have 86 billion neurons while there are 200-400 billion stars in the Milky Way.
  41. It’s often said that there are 10,000 miles of blood vessels in the brain when, actually, that number is closer to 400 miles. Still, a substantial amount!
  42. Contrary to the prevailing medical belief, having high total cholesterol is not bad for your brain. (See #5) In fact, high cholesterol actually reduces your risk of dementia.
  43. Until recently, it was a “fact” that you were born with a set level of intelligence and number of brain cells. But it has since been discovered that your brain has the capacity to change throughout your lifetime due to a property known as brain plasticity. The brain can continue to form new brain cells via a process known as neurogenesis.
  44.  
    FACTS ABOUT THE BRAIN AND MEMORY

  45. Memory is better thought of as an activity rather than being associated with a specific area of the brain. Any given memory is deconstructed and distributed in different parts of the brain. Then, for the memory to be recalled, it gets reconstructed from the individual fragments.
  46. Your brain starts slowing down at the ripe old age of 24, but peaks for different cognitive skills at different ages. In fact, at any given age, you’re likely getting better at some things and worse at others. An extreme case is vocabulary skills which may peak as late as the early 70s!
  47. If you were drinking alcohol and don’t remember what you did last night, it’s not because you forgot. While you are drunk, your brain is incapable of forming memories.
  48. It’s generally believed that people with exceptional memories are born that way, but this is rarely the case. Most memory masters will tell you that having an outstanding memory is a skill they developed by employing the best memory techniques.
  49.  
    FACTS ABOUT BRAIN FORM AND FUNCTION

  50. Human brain tissue is not dense. It’s very fragile — soft and squishy similar to the consistency of soft tofu or gelatin.
  51. The brain produces a half cup of fluid every day. It floats in this bath of cerebrospinal fluid which acts as a shock absorber to keep the brain from being crushed by its own weight.
  52. Sometimes half a brain is a good as a whole one. When surgeons operate to stop seizures, they remove or disable half of the brain in a procedure known as a hemispherectomy. Shockingly, patients experience no effect on personality or memory.
  53. Your brain has a pattern of connectivity as unique as your fingerprints.
  54. Although pain is processed in your brain, your brain has no pain receptors and feels no pain. This explains how brain surgery can be performed while the patient is awake with no pain or discomfort. Headache pain feels like it starts in your brain, but is caused by sensations from nearby skin, joints, sinuses, blood vessels or muscles.
  55. Brain freeze sure feels like pain in the brain but is an example of referred pain emanating from the roof of the mouth. Fortunately, brain freeze does not freeze brain cells because frozen brain cells rupture and turn to mush.
  56. The brains of introverts and extroverts are measurably different. MRIs reveal that the dopamine reward network is more active in the brains of extroverts while introverts’ brains have more gray matter.
  57. According to research done at Cambridge University, the order of letters in a word doesn’t matter much to your brain. As long as the first and last letters are in the right spot, your brain can rearrange the letters to form words as fast as you can read. This is why you can easily make sense out of this jumble of letters:
    Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
    Pretty amazing!
  58.  
    HOW THE BRAIN COMPARES TO A COMPUTER

  59. Your brain’s storage capacity is considered virtually unlimited. It doesn’t get “used up” like RAM in your computer.
  60. The latest research shows that the brain’s memory capacity is a quadrillion, or 1015, bytes. Astoundingly, this is about the same amount needed to store the entire internet!
  61. The human brain is capable of 1,016 processes per second, which makes it far more powerful than any existing computer.
  62. Researchers involved in the AI Impacts project have developed a way to compare supercomputers to brains — by measuring how fast a computer can move information around within its own system. By this standard, the human brain is 30 times more powerful than the IBM Sequoia, one of the world’s fastest supercomputers.
  63. Japan’s K computer is one of the most powerful computers in the world. When programmed to simulate human brain activity, it took 40 minutes to crunch the data equivalent to just one second of brain activity.
  64. &nbsp:
    EVIDENCE OUR BRAINS “COULD BE BETTER”

  65. There are almost 200 known cognitive biases and distortions that cause us to think and act irrationally.
  66. Memories are shockingly unreliable and change over time. Emotions, motivation, cues, context and frequency of use can all affect how accurately you remember something. This includes “flash bulb memories” which occur during traumatic events.
  67. Of the thousands of thoughts a person has every day, it’s estimated that 70% of this mental chatter is negative — self-critical, pessimistic, and fearful.
  68. Think you’re in control of your life? Don’t be so sure. Ninety-five percent of your decisions take place in your subconscious mind.
  69. A blood-brain barrier protects your brain by preventing many foreign substances in your vascular system from reaching the brain. But the barrier doesn’t work perfectly and many substances sneak through. Nicotine rushes into the brain in a mere 7 seconds. Alcohol, on the other hand, takes 6 minutes.
  70. Our brains crave mental stimulation, sometimes to a fault. Men especially would rather give themselves electric shocks than sit quietly in a room and think!
  71. Synesthesia is a condition where stimulation of one sense automatically evokes a perception of another sense. People with synesthesia might “taste” words, “smell” sounds, or see numbers as colors. While it’s not known exactly why this occurs, the prevailing theory is that these brains have hyper-connectivity between sensory areas in the brain.
  72. The human brain is extraordinarily complex and consequently can go awry in some spectacular ways. Some of the strangest disorders include exploding head syndrome disorder (hearing phantom explosions in your head), Capgras syndrome (thinking loved ones have been substituted by impostors, robots or aliens), and Cotard’s syndrome (believing you are dead).
  73. Savant syndrome is a condition where those with serious mental disabilities have an “island of genius.” The most common areas of genius fall into one of these categories: music, art, mathematics, mechanical, or spatial skills.
  74. Most savants are born that way, but a brain trauma can cause acquired savant syndrome where ordinary people suddenly develop genius-level abilities they didn’t have before.
  75. Brain cells need a constant supply of fuel to stay alive, yet they lack the ability to store energy. Fortunately, there’s a backup system. Your liver breaks down stored fat to produce ketone bodies that can be used as a substitute fuel when commonly-used blood glucose is not available.
  76.  
    BRAIN FACTS THAT ARE JUST PLAIN WEIRD

  77. The brain in your head isn’t your only brain. There’s a “second brain” in your intestines that contains 100 million neurons. Gut bacteria are responsible for making over 30 neurotransmitters including the “happy molecule” serotonin.
  78. Some scientists believe zombies could actually be created. They think it’s possible that a mutated virus or parasites could attack the brain and rapidly spread throughout large populations, essentially causing a “zombie apocalypse.”
  79. Users of Apple devices really are different than those who use Android products. (It’s not your imagination.) MRIs reveal that Apple products stimulate the “god spot” in their users’ brains — the same part of the brain activated by religious imagery in people of faith.
  80. Few facts about the brain are as strange as the posthumous story of Albert Einstein’s brain. The pathologist who performed Einstein’s autopsy kept the brain in a jar in his basement for 40 years. Eventually, he made a cross-country trip with the brain in a Tupperware container to deliver it to Einstein’s granddaughter.

Read the original article
 

Brainline Holiday Article Picture
 

15 Tips for Surviving — AND Enjoying — the Holidays with Brain Injury

By BrainLine

Flashing lights. Crowded stores. Loud family gatherings. The holiday season should be joyful, but it can often be overwhelming to someone who is living with brain injury.

If you are living with TBI, share these tips with your friends and family. If someone you love is living with TBI, the tips below can help you plan to make the holiday season happier and more relaxed for all of your friends and family.

These great ideas came from members of BrainLine’s wonderful online community.

  1. Identify — in advance, if possible — a quiet place to go at gatherings if you are feeling overwhelmed. This gives you a chance to take a break and lets your loved ones stay involved in the festivities.
  2. Avoid crowded stores and order gifts online instead.
  3. If you are shopping in stores, remember to make a list in advance and plan your trips on weekdays — either early in the morning or late at night when there are fewer crowds.
  4. Wear a cap with a brim or lightly tinted sunglasses to minimize the glare of bright lights in stores or flashing lights on a tree.
  5. Wear noise-reducing headphones or earbuds. These are also great gift ideas for loved ones with TBI if they don’t already have them.
  6. Ask a friend to go with you to stores or holiday parties. They can help you navigate crowds and anxiety-producing situations.
  7. Plan in advance as much as possible. And ask your hosts what their plans are so you aren’t surprised by anything.
  8. Volunteer to help with the holiday activities that you enjoy the most and are least stressful for you.
  9. Remember to ask for help and accept help if it is offered to you.
  10. Ask someone you trust to help you with a budget to avoid overspending on gifts.
  11. Take a nap if you need a break.
  12. Remember that it’s okay to skip the big parties and plan to celebrate in a way that makes you comfortable and happy.
  13. Check in advance to see if fireworks are part of outdoor celebrations — and skip them if they make you uncomfortable.
  14. If flashing lights bother you, ask your friends and family to turn off the flashing feature on Christmas tree lights or other decorations when you visit their homes.
  15. You can let your host know in advance that you may need to leave early. It will help you feel comfortable if you need to get home or to a quiet place and it can also help avoid any hurt feelings.

Read the original article
 

Libby and Tom Bates // CBS News

A brain disease best known for impacting football players who suffered concussions is now being found in soldiers

By Sharyn Alfonsi, September 16, 2018, CBS News

Until a few years ago, NFL players who struggled with severe depression, bouts of rage and memory loss in their retirement were often told they were just having a hard time adjusting to life away from the game. Doctors have since learned these changes can be symptoms of the degenerative brain disease CTE – chronic traumatic encephalopathy, caused by blows to the head.

As we first reported in January, CTE isn’t just affecting athletes, but also showing up in our nation’s heroes. Since 9/11 over 300,000 soldiers have returned home with brain injuries. Researchers fear the impact of CTE could cripple a generation of warriors.

When Joy Kieffer buried her 34-year old son this past summer, it was the end of a long goodbye.

Kieffer’s son, Sgt. Kevin Ash, enlisted in the Army Reserves at the age of 18. Over three deployments, he was exposed to 12 combat blasts, many of them roadside bombs. He returned home in 2012 a different man.

Joy Kieffer: His whole personality had changed. I thought it was exposure to all of the things that he had seen, and he had just become harder. You know, but he was — he was not happy.

Sharyn Alfonsi: So at this point, you’re thinking this decline, this change in my child is just that he’s been in war and he’s seen too much.

Joy Kieffer: Right.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Did he tell you about blasts that he experienced during that time?

Joy Kieffer: Uh-huh.

Sharyn Alfonsi: What did he–tell you?

Joy Kieffer: That they shook him. And he was having blackouts. And — it frightened him.

Ash withdrew from family and friends. He was angry. Depressed. Doctors prescribed therapy and medication, but his health began to decline quickly. By his 34th birthday, Sgt. Kevin Ash was unable to speak, walk or eat on his own.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Looking back on it now, was there anything you feel like he could’ve done?

Joy Kieffer: Uh-uh.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Because?

Joy Kieffer: Because it was– it– it was his brain. The thing I didn’t know was that his brain was continuing to die. I mean, before he went into the service he said, “you know, I could come back with no legs, or no arms, or even blind, or I could be shot, I could die,” but nobody ever said that he could lose his mind one day at a time.

His final wish was to serve his country one last time by donating his brain to science — a gesture he thought would bring better understanding to the invisible wounds of war.

Joy reached out to the VA-Boston University-Concussion Legacy Foundation Brain Bank where neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee is leading the charge in researching head trauma and the degenerative brain disease CTE.

McKee has spent fourteen years looking at the postmortem brains of hundreds of athletes who suffered concussions while playing their sport.

Last summer, her findings shook the football world when she discovered CTE in the brains of 110 out of 111 deceased NFL players — raising serious concerns for those in the game today.

And when Dr. McKee autopsied Patriots tight-end Aaron Hernandez who killed himself after being convicted of murder, she found the most severe case of CTE ever, in someone under 30.

Now she’s seeing similar patterns in deceased veterans who experienced a different kind of head trauma — combat blasts. Of the 125 veterans’ brains Dr. Mckee’s examined, 74 had CTE.

Sharyn Alfonsi: I can understand a football player who keeps, you know, hitting his head, and having impact and concussions. But how is it that a combat veteran, who maybe just experienced a blast, has the same type of injury?

Dr. Ann McKee: This blast injury causes a tremendous sort of– ricochet or– or– a whiplash injury to the brain inside the skull and that’s what gives rise to the same changes that we see in football players, as in military veterans.

Blast trauma was first recognized back in World War I. Known as ‘shell shock,’ poorly protected soldiers often died immediately or went on to suffer physical and psychological symptoms. Today, sophisticated armor allows more soldiers to walk away from an explosion but exposure can still damage the brain — an injury that can worsen over time.

Dr. Ann McKee: It’s not a new injury. But what’s been really stumping us, I think, as– as physicians is it’s not easily detectable, right? It’s– you’ve got a lot of psychiatric symptoms– and you can’t see it very well on images of the brain and so it didn’t occur to us. And I think that’s been the gap, really, that this has been what everyone calls an invisible injury.

Dr. Ann McKee: This is the world’s largest CTE brain bank.

The only foolproof way to diagnose CTE is by testing a post-mortem brain.

Sharyn Alfonsi: So these are full of hundreds of brains…

Dr. Ann McKee: Hundreds of brains, thousands really…

Researchers carefully dissect sections of the brain where they look for changes in the folds of the frontal lobes – an area responsible for memory, judgement, emotions, impulse control and personality.

Dr. Ann McKee: Do you see there’s a tiny little hole there? That is an abnormality. And it’s a clear abnormality.

Sharyn Alfonsi: And what would that affect?

Dr. Ann McKee: Well, it’s part of the memory circuit. You can see that clear hole there that shouldn’t be there. It’s connecting the important memory regions of the brain with other regions. So that is a sign of CTE.

Thin slivers of the affected areas are then stained and viewed microscopically. It’s in these final stages where a diagnosis becomes clear as in the case of Sgt. Kevin Ash.

Sharyn Alfonsi: So this is Sergeant Ash’s brain?

Dr. Ann McKee: Right. This is– four sections of his brain. And what you can see is– these lesions. The, and those lesions are CTE And they’re in very characteristic parts of the brain. They’re at the bottom of the crevice. That’s a unique feature of CTE.

Sharyn Alfonsi: And in a healthy brain, you wouldn’t see any of those kind of brown spots?

Dr. Ann McKee: No, no, it would be completely clear. And then when you look microscopically, you can see that the tau, which is staining brown and is inside nerve cells is surrounding these little vessels.

Sharyn Alfonsi: And explain, what is the tau?

Dr. Ann McKee: So tau is a protein that’s normally in the nerve cell. It helps with structure and after trauma, it starts clumping up as a toxin inside the nerve cell. And over time, and even years, gradually that nerve cell dies.

Dr. Lee Goldstein has been building on Dr. McKee’s work with testing on mice.

Inside his Boston University lab, Dr. Goldstein built a 27-foot blast tube where a mouse – and in this demonstration, a model – is exposed to an explosion equivalent to the IEDs used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dr. Lee Goldstein: When it reaches about 25 this thing is going to go.

Dr. Goldstein’s model shows what’s going on inside the brain during a blast. The brightly colored waves illustrate stress on the soft tissues of the brain as it ricochets back and forth within the skull.

Dr. Lee Goldstein: What we see after these blast exposures, the animals actually look fine. Which is shocking to us. So they come out of what is a near lethal blast exposure, just like our military service men and women do. And they appear to be fine. But what we know is that that brain is not the same after that exposure as it was microseconds before. And if there is a subsequent exposure, that change will be accelerated. And ultimately, this triggers a neurodegenerative disease. And, in fact, we can see that really after even one of these exposures.

Sharyn Alfonsi: The Department of Defense estimates hundreds of thousands of soldiers have experienced a blast like this. What does that tell you?

Dr. Lee Goldstein: This is a disease and a problem that we’re going to be dealing with for decades. And it’s a huge public health problem. It’s a huge problem for the Veterans Administration. It’s a huge moral responsibility for all of us.

A responsibility owed to soldiers like 34-year-old Sgt. Tom Bates.

Sgt. Tom Bates: We were struck with a large IED. It was a total devastation strike.

Bates miraculously walked away from a mangled humvee — one of four IED blasts he survived during deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Do you remember feeling the impact in your body?

Sgt. Tom Bates: Yes. Yeah.

Sharyn Alfonsi: What does that feel like?

Sgt. Tom Bates: Just basically like getting hit by a train.

Sharyn Alfonsi: And you were put back on the frontlines.

Sgt. Tom Bates: Yes.

Sharyn Alfonsi: And that was it?

Sgt. Tom Bates: Uh-huh

When Bates returned home in 2009, his wife Libby immediately saw a dramatic change.

Libby Bates: I thought, “Something is not absolutely right here. Something’s going on. For him to just lay there and to sob and be so sad. You know, what do you do for that? How do I– how do I help him? He would look at me and say, “If it wasn’t for you, I would end it all right now.” You know, I mean, like, what do you– what do you do– and what do you say to somebody who says that? You know I love this man so much. And —

Sharyn Alfonsi: You’re going to the VA, you’re getting help, but did you feel like you weren’t getting answers?

Sgt. Tom Bates: Yes.

Sharyn Alfonsi: And so you took it into your own hands and started researching?

Sgt. Tom Bates: I knew the way everything had gone and how quick a lot of my neurological issues had progressed that something was wrong. And I just– I wanted answers for it.

That led him to New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital where neurologist Dr. Sam Gandy is trying to move beyond diagnosing CTE only in the dead by using scans that test for the disease in the living.

Dr. Sam Gandy: By having this during life, this now gives us for the first time the possibility of estimating the true prevalence of the disease. It’s important to estimate prevalence so that people can have some sense of what the risk is.

In the past year, 50 veterans and athletes have been tested for the disease here. Tom Bates asked to be a part of it.

That radioactive tracer – known as t807 – clings to those dead clusters of protein known as tau, which are typical markers of the disease.

Through the course of a 20 minute PET scan, high resolution images are taken of the brain and then combined with MRI results to get a 360 degree picture of whether there are potential signs of CTE.

Scan results confirmed what Tom and Libby had long suspected.

On the right, we see a normal brain scan with no signs of CTE next to Tom’s brain where tau deposits, possible markers of CTE, are bright orange.

Dr. Sam Gandy: Here these could be responsible for some of the anxiety and depression he’s suffered and we’re concerned it will progress.

Sgt. Tom Bates: My hope is that this study becomes more prominent, and gets to more veterans, and stuff like that so we can actually get, like, a reflection of what population might actually have this.

There is no cure for CTE.

Dr. Gandy hopes his trial will lead to drug therapies so he can offer some relief to patients like Tom.

Dr. Ann McKee believes some people may be at higher risk of getting the disease than others.

While examining NFL star Aaron Hernandez’s brain she identified a genetic bio-marker she believes may have predisposed him to CTE.

A discovery that could have far-reaching implications on the football field and battlefield.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Do you think you will ever be your old self again?

Sgt. Tom Bates: I don’t ever see me being my old self again. I think it’s just too far gone.

Sharyn Alfonsi: So what’s your hope then?

Sgt. Tom Bates: Just to not become worse than I am now.

Since our story first aired, over 100 veterans have contacted Dr. Gandy to enroll in ongoing trials to identify whether they are living with CTE. And more than 300 have reached out to Dr. Mckee about donating their brains to research.

Read the original article
 

Serving the Brain Injury Community for 30+ years