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Curr Opin Neurol. 2004 Dec;17(6):719-23.

Head injury and dementia.

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  • 1Institute of Clinical Neurobiology, A-1070 Vienna, Austria.



The link between head injury and dementia/Alzheimer's disease is controversial. This review discusses some recent epidemiological, human autopsy and experimental studies on the relationship between traumatic head injury and dementia.


Recent epidemiological studies have shown that head injury is a risk factor for the development of dementia/Alzheimer's disease, whereas others have not. After experimental brain trauma the long-term accumulation of amyloid beta peptide suggests that neurodegeneration is influenced by apolipoprotein E epsilon 4, and after human brain injury both amyloid beta peptide deposition and tau pathology are seen, even in younger patients. Amyloid beta peptide levels in the cerebrospinal fluid and the overproduction of beta amyloid precursor protein in humans and animals after traumatic brain injury are increased. Repeated mild head trauma in both animals and humans accelerates amyloid beta peptide accumulation and cognitive impairment. Retrospective autopsy data support clinical studies suggesting that severe traumatic brain injury with long-lasting morphological residuals are a risk factor for the development of dementia/Alzheimer's disease. The influence of the apolipoprotein E genotype on the prognosis of traumatic brain injury is under discussion.


Although epidemiological studies and retrospective autopsy data provide evidence that a later cognitive decline may occur after severe traumatic brain injury, the relationship between dementia after head/brain trauma and apolipoprotein E status is still ambiguous. Both human postmortem and experimental studies showing apolipoprotein beta deposition and tau pathology after head injury support the link between traumatic brain injury and dementia, and further studies are warranted to clarify this relationship.

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