Football Season Begins as Study of Retired NFL Players Looks for Symptoms and Biomarkers of Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury

The National Football League (NFL) season doesn’t officially kick off until September 5, but a familiar tale is starting to repeat itself. So far, 11 players have been listed on injured reserve because of concussions suffered during pre-season games and practices.

The fear that athletes who suffer repeated blows to the head may end up with a preventable cause of dementia called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is leading neurodegeneration researchers at Penn to join in a collaborative study of retired NFL players, to see if there are any clinical symptoms (such as depression, disinhibition, cognitive or motor impairment) and biomarkers present that can be measured and tracked over time. The ultimate goal is to use the clinical symptoms and biomarkers to be able to diagnose CTE during lifetime, as the only way to diagnose CTE currently is through an examination of brain tissue after death. Continue reading

Science, from a High School Perspective

Before our recent visitors from the Big Brothers Big Sisters Beyond School Walls program came to visit the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, we were curious to find out their thoughts on what it takes to be a scientist, and how science can help people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Here’s what they said in response to our question:

What do you think scientists do?

Scientists “discover information about the world, work to cure diseases, invent tools.” – Nashia

” As doctors work to research various illnesses and conditions to help patient recover, they are using science as a basis.” – Khadijah

Scientists “[dissect] frogs and they also study how things work and fixes.” – Jose

They sent back their own great questions, that our own tour guides/researchers answered when they toured CNDR:

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced dealing with Alzheimer’s disease?” – Michael

“What inspired you to become a scientist?” – Jose

“How do you study the brain?” – Tyreik

We also asked the students how we can best help people with Alzheimer’s disease. They had lots of great ideas, including:

Still treat [people with Alzheimer’s] as people. Raise awareness to find a cure.” – Simone

“Research the brains, comparing brains with and without Alzheimer’s disease.” – Tyreik

“Continue to research – medicine to activate brain to remember.”  – Nashia

It was refreshing to hear the very bright, focused answers that the students provided. Hopefully, some of them will choose to become scientists themselves, one day. The more researchers there are, the faster we can hopefully find treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s.