Research Highlights Distinctions Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

According to a story from, an international research team affiliated with the UK Medical Research Council, Indiana University School of Medicine, and the University of Kansas have released a research study that reveals key differences in the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Previously, it was widely believed that the mechanism behind these two diseases practically identical, but these new findings refute that understanding and offer the opportunity for new therapeutic targets and more accurate diagnoses.

About Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative disease that is caused by repeated strikes or blows to the head. The onset of symptoms may appear decades after the head trauma was sustained. The disease has occasionally made headlines because of its prevalence amongst athletes in contact sports such as American football, soccer, hockey, wrestling, boxing, rugby, and others in which blows to the head are commonplace. Other risk factors include prior history of domestic violence or military service. Currently, only an autopsy can confirm a diagnosis with absolute certainty. The symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy include behavioral abnormalities, headaches, confusion, impulsive behavior, memory loss, impaired judgment, dementia, difficulty speaking, deafness, depression, tremors, and suicidal thoughts. There are no real treatment options that can cure or alter the course of the disease. The overall prevalence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy is unknown. Preventative measures to protect athletes from head blows could help reduce rates of the disease. To learn more about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, click here.

About The Study

Alzheimer’s and chronic traumatic encephalopathy are definitely closely related diseases that are characterized by the presence of tau protein tangles that degrade brain function. However, with the use of cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) that research team discovered that the tau protein was folded in different ways in the two diseases. Another notable finding that these scientists made was that there is a previously unidentified element alongside the tau in chronic traumatic encephalopathy patients that does not appear in Alzheimer’s disease. 

This study was originally published in the scientific journal Nature. To read the original study, click here.

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