Tau Protein Clumps Found in Brains of People with TBI
In 2012 famed NFL linebacker Junior Seau killed himself and left a note asking that his brain be examined by neuroscientists to learn if abnormalities from concussions had caused his severe, unremitting depression with fits of rage. The conclusion of the researchers was that Seau’s brain had extensive lesions from multiple concussions and met the diagnosis of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Until Seau’s death CTE could only be diagnosed on autopsy in deceased individuals.
Now Dr. Gary Small, a geriatric psychiatrist at UCLA, is one of a group of brain scientists working to diagnose CTE in living individuals. Small and his colleagues have found a chemical that can be injected into a living person which will light up clumps of tau protein in the brains of people with CTE while undergoing a PET scan. They call the chemical marker FDDNP. While scanning the brains of 5 retired NFL players age 45 or older with a history of multiple concussions they found tau protein clumps in the brain areas for memory, emotion, and behavior.