Traumatic Brain Injury and Age at Onset of Cognitive Impairment in Older Adults

Woman with Head Pain

Older adults are at a higher risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI) due to falls or other accidents. People who suffer from TBI frequently have cognitive issues such as problems with memory, attention, and learning. When the older adult struggles with degenerative cognitive declines, such as from Alzheimer’s disease, and then acquires a TBI, the combination may pose exacerbate the cognitive problems considerably. This combination may be further worsened by the severity of the TBI and the age of onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

A recent study examined the relationship between TBI severity and age of onset of cognitive impairment in older adults. A neuroimaging analysis revealed that:

  • Participants with a history of TBI had an earlier age of onset of cognitive impairment from neurodegenerative disease as compared to those with no history of TBI.
  • Mild TBI – but not moderate to severe TBI – is related to an earlier age of onset of cognitive impairment.
  • Mild TBI is associated with an earlier age of onset in the participants who have a clinical diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment.

Clinicians should be advised that a history of TBI is a risk factor for accelerated onset of dementia and other forms of cognitive impairment from neurodegenerative diseases. When treating older adult patients with a history of TBI, these findings may help clinicians make a more prognosis and ensure that suitable therapeutic measures are in place.

Source: Wei L, Risacher SL, Thomas WM, et al. Traumatic brain injury and age at onset of cognitive impairment in older adults. Journal of Neuropsychology. (March 2016).

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