Health News: Concussions and Head Impacts May Accelerate Brain Aging

Concussions and even lesser head impacts may speed up the brain’s natural aging process. Research suggests they may cause signaling pathways in the brain to break down more quickly than they would in someone who has never suffered a brain injury or concussion.

Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology and the U of M Health System looked at college students with and without a history of concussion and found changes in gait, balance, and in the brain’s electrical activity: specifically attention and impulse control.

“The last thing we want is for people to panic. Just because you’ve had a concussion does not mean your brain will age more quickly or you’ll get Alzheimer’s,” said Steven Broglio, assistant professor of kinesiology and director of the Neurotrauma Research Laboratory.

Broglio stressed that other factors—such as lifestyle choices, smoking, alcohol consumption, physical exercise, family history, and whether or not you “exercise your brain”—also affect the brain’s aging process. Concussion may only be one small factor.