Washington: Concussions and even lesser head impacts may accelerate the brain`s natural ageing process, a new study has claimed.
Researchers from the University of Michigan found that brain injuries can cause signalling pathways in the brain to break down more quickly than they would in someone who has never suffered a concussion.
The study looked at college students with and without a history of concussion and found changes in gait, balance and in the brain`s electrical activity, specifically attention and impulse control.
"The declines were present in the brain injury group up to six years after injury, though the differences between the study groups were very subtle, and outwardly all of the participants looked and acted the same," said Steven Broglio, assistant professor of kinesiology and director of the Neurotrauma Research Laboratory.
The study was published in the journal Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews.
Researchers asked the participants to perform certain tasks in front of a computer, and took images of their brains.
The brains of the non-concussed group showed a greater area of electrical activation than the participants with a history of brain injury.
The signalling pathways in our brains are analogous to a five-lane highway. On a new highway, traffic runs smoothly and quickly as all lanes are in top shape. However, during normal ageing, the asphalt deteriorates and lanes might become bumpy or even unusable, the study said.
As we age, the brain`s pathways break down and can`t transfer the information as quickly. Concussive and other impacts to the head may result in a `pothole` on the brain`s highway, causing varying degrees of damage and speeding the pathway`s natural deterioration.
"The last thing we want is for people to panic. Just because you`ve had a concussion does not mean your brain will age more quickly or you`ll get Alzheimer`s," Broglio said in a statement.
"We are only proposing how being hit in the head may lead to these other conditions, but we don`t know how it all goes together just yet," Broglio stressed.
Broglio mentioned that other factors, such as lifestyle choices, smoking, alcohol consumption, physical exercise, family history and whether or not you exercise your brain also impact the brain`s ageing process; concussion may only be one small factor.