Scientists identify brain inflammation and CTE connection

Inflammation in the brain may be directly involved with the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, scientists say.

The relationship between brain inflammation and CTE was observed in a study conducted by researchers at Boston University Medical Center. According to the authors, playing contact sports for an extended period of time may be a prerequisite for the disease. The findings were published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica Communications.

CTE is a progressive degenerative disorder in the brain as a result of repetitive brain trauma. The disease is typically associated with professional athletes. During the study, scientists analyzed the brains of former American football players alongside a non-athlete control group. The team found a positive correlation between the number of years playing football and the number of inflammatory cells, CTE pathology, and the onset of dementia.

“This study provides evidence that playing football for a prolonged period can result in long-term brain inflammation and that this inflammation might lead to CTE,” first author Jonathan Cherry said in a press release. “Although inflammation may be protective in the brain especially right after an injury, our study suggests that years after a period of playing football inflammation can persist in the brain and is linked to the development of CTE.”

In addition to CTE, the research team notes brain inflammation may influence the onset of other disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Cherry says detecting such damage can help diagnose patients early.

“Brain inflammation could be used as a predictive biomarker to help identify patients at risk of developing CTE in life,” he added.