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Brain Gain: Identifying candidate dementia-related biomarkers and early intervention strategies for adults aged 50+ with a history of mild traumatic brain injury

Principal Investigator:
  • Taylor Snowden, University of Victoria
  • Brain Changes Initiative

Project Overview

Dr. Matthew Galati Brain Changer Award

One hundred and forty-four thousand Canadians suffer a diagnosed concussion each year. A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury, often caused by a bump to the head or body that causes one’s brain to move within the skull. This movement causes micro-tears in the brain that are undetectable by even some of the best brain imaging machines. In addition to the immediate symptoms of injury (headache, dizziness, memory loss), there is growing concern that these injuries will lead to longer-lasting deficits in the ageing brain, including dementia. There is no cure for dementia; however, identifying risk factors (something that increases a person’s risk for disease) and early indicators of disease are crucial research areas. Recent research indicates that individuals who have sustained at least one diagnosed concussion are nearly two times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia than someone without a concussion history. Therefore, concussions are a risk factor for dementia. Some early identifiers of dementia include decreased cognitive functions (memory, attention, processing speed) and increased levels of brain-related proteins in the blood and saliva. This research aims to identify dementia-related candidate cognitive and fluid (blood and saliva) biomarkers in individuals with concussion histories. The benefits of cognitive and exercise-based interventions for adults at a heightened risk of dementia due to previous concussions have yet to be explored. Therefore, this research also examines some potential preventative strategies for this same group. We will assess cognitive performance and fluid dementiarelated biomarkers before and after a randomly assigned 12-week intervention program to identify these interventions’ utility in this population. Altogether, this project aims to identify early detection and intervention measures for adults at risk of dementia due to concussion history.