Merriam-Webster defines dementia as a “condition (such as Alzheimer’s disease) marked by the development of multiple cognitive deficits (such as memory impairment, aphasia, and the inability to plan and initiate complex behavior).” Though dementia is typically a progressive disease, the effects of it largely mirror those of traumatic brain injury, which can also cause long-term cognitive impairments. Though many brain injury survivors are fortunate enough to get progressively better, it is not a surprise that scientists have found a link between the two conditions.
The written report of the results of a 2012 NIH-funded study found this link, and specifically notes that, “the recognition that certain members of society… are at particular risk of TBI-related dementia should stimulate research on preventive strategies focused on these individuals.” It has stimulated research on the topic and presently, “The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a team of scientists and physicians from leading health care institutions across Phoenix a $1.3 million grant over three years to study traumatic brain injury and its relationship to dementia.”
Led by Dr. Jonathan Lifshitz and Dr. Raymond Migrino, the study is a cooperative effort between the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Barrow Neurological Institute and Arizona State University. These institutions will work together to identify the negative effects of the damage to blood vessel function that is caused by traumatic brain injuries, dementia, and, surprisingly, diabetes. The mission is to discover specifically why those who had a brain injury, particularly during their youth, are at a 4.5 times greater risk of developing dementia.