Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Concussion Damage Looks Like Early Alzheimer's: Study

Preliminary finding suggests mild brain injury triggers long-lasting abnormalities in white matter

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- Concussion can lead to damage in the white matter of the brain that resembles abnormalities found in people in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine said their findings should prompt a re-evaluation of the long-term effects of concussion, which affects more than 1.7 million people in the United States annually. About 15 percent of concussion patients suffer persistent neurological symptoms.

"The previous thinking before was you get a concussion, and that causes a certain damage from bopping your head and you get these symptoms," said study author Dr. Saeed Fakhran, an assistant professor of radiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "We found it acts as a kind of trigger, and lights a fuse that causes a neurodegenerative cascade that causes all these symptoms down the line. Once you've hit your head, the injury isn't done."

The findings are published online June 18 in the journal Radiology.

The study drew some criticism from concussion and Alzheimer's disease experts who said the findings, while provocative, should not be interpreted as drawing a clear link between a concussion suffered early in life with the development of Alzheimer's.

"I don't want a mom to pick this up and say, 'Oh my god, my 10-year-old is going to get Alzheimer's now,' because that is not the case," said Dr. Ken Podell, a neuropsychologist and co-director of the Methodist Concussion Center in Houston. "It's very inconclusive at this time, and there's no clinical application of this at this point of time."

White matter serves as the tissue through which messages pass between different areas of gray matter within the brain and spinal cord. Think of gray matter as the individual computers in a network, and white matter as the cables that connect the computer.

The researchers reviewed past brain scans of 64 people who had suffered a concussion, focusing on scans that used an advanced MRI technique called diffusion-tensor imaging, which spots microscopic changes in the brain's white matter.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
senior man
boy hits soccer ball with head
red and white swirl
marijuana plant
brain illustration stroke
nerve damage
Alzheimers Overview
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix