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PLoS One. 2013 Nov 4;8(11):e78851. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0078851. eCollection 2013.

Traumatic brain injury precipitates cognitive impairment and extracellular Aβ aggregation in Alzheimer's disease transgenic mice.

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Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair, Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair, University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida, United States of America.


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has become a signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many American soldiers, even those undiagnosed but likely suffering from mild TBI, display Alzheimer's disease (AD)-like cognitive impairments, suggesting a pathological overlap between TBI and AD. This study examined the cognitive and neurohistological effects of TBI in presymptomatic APP/PS1 AD-transgenic mice. AD mice and non-transgenic (NT) mice received an experimental TBI on the right parietal cortex using the controlled cortical impact model. Animals were trained in a water maze task for spatial memory before TBI, and then reevaluated in the same task at two and six weeks post-TBI. The results showed that AD mice with TBI made significantly more errors in the task than AD mice without TBI and NT mice regardless of TBI. A separate group of AD mice and NT mice were evaluated neurohistologically at six weeks after TBI. The number of extracellular beta-amyloid (Aβ)-deposits significantly increased by at least one fold in the cortex of AD mice that received TBI compared to the NT mice that received TBI or the AD and NT mice that underwent sham surgery. A significant decrease in MAP2 positive cells, indicating neuronal loss, was observed in the cortex of both the AD and NT mice that received TBI compared to the AD and NT mice subjected to sham surgery. Similar changes in extracellular Aβ deposits and MAP2 positive cells were also seen in the hippocampus. These results demonstrate for the first time that TBI precipitates cognitive impairment in presymptomatic AD mice, while also confirming extracellular Aβ deposits following TBI. The recognition of this pathological link between TBI and AD should aid in developing novel treatments directed at abrogating cellular injury and extracellular Aβ deposition in the brain.

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