October 3, 2023

J Neurol. 2023 Aug 18. doi: 10.1007/s00415-023-11931-8. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: Brain age is increasingly being applied to the spectrum of brain injury to define neuropathological changes in conjunction with blood-based biomarkers. However, data from the acute/sub-acute stages of concussion are lacking, especially among younger cohorts.

METHODS: Predicted brain age differences were independently calculated in large, prospectively recruited cohorts of pediatric concussion and matched healthy controls (total N = 446), as well as collegiate athletes with sport-related concussion and matched non-contact sport controls (total N = 184). Effects of repetitive head injury (i.e., exposure) were examined in a separate cohort of contact sport athletes (N = 82), as well as by quantifying concussion history through semi-structured interviews and years of contact sport participation.

RESULTS: Findings of increased brain age during acute and sub-acute concussion were independently replicated across both cohorts, with stronger evidence of recovery for pediatric (4 months) relative to concussed athletes (6 months). Mixed evidence existed for effects of repetitive head injury, as brain age was increased in contact sport athletes, but was not associated with concussion history or years of contact sport exposure. There was no difference in brain age between concussed and contact sport athletes. Total tau decreased immediately (~ 1.5 days) post-concussion relative to the non-contact group, whereas pro-inflammatory markers were increased in both concussed and contact sport athletes. Anti-inflammatory markers were inversely related to brain age, whereas markers of axonal injury (neurofilament light) exhibited a trend positive association.

CONCLUSION: Current and previous findings collectively suggest that the chronicity of brain age differences may be mediated by age at injury (adults > children), with preliminary findings suggesting that exposure to contact sports may also increase brain age.

PMID:37594499 | DOI:10.1007/s00415-023-11931-8