Researchers for the first time have linked troops exposed to even a single roadside bomb blast to serious degenerative brain disease and resulting long-term cognitive failures, suggesting that tens of thousands of returning veterans may face significant long-term health problems.
Investigators from Boston University and the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System on Wednesday published a study that shows chronic traumatic encephalopathy — a brain disease found in athletes who suffer frequent concussions — in autopsies of veterans who had been exposed to detonations of improvised explosive devices.
Unlike the temporary cognitive and memory loss associated with some traumatic brain injuries, CTE manifests itself in the form of psychiatric symptoms, learning deficits, dementia and progressive brain cell death. Researchers called the new findings a major cause for concern for a generation of young veterans.
“We know in its end stages CTE is a very severely debilitating disease that in many ways looks like Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Ann McKee, study co-author and director of the Neuropathology Service for VA New England Healthcare System. “It’s something that progresses with time, and you wouldn’t want anyone to develop this.”