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A head injury can have a lingering effect that may create a condition linked to depression.
After a head injury, immune system brain cells go on "high alert." They may overreact to later immune challenges by becoming excessively inflammatory – a condition that leads to depression.
These findings could help explain mid-life mental health issues suffered by people who had multiple concussions during youth.
Adding to this complication, aging increases brain inflammation. It's a double whammy for people with a history of concussion. Their depressive symptoms are likely related to inflammation so they may not respond to antidepressants.
"A lot of people with a history of head injury don’t develop mental-health problems until they’re in their 40s, 50s, or 60s,” said lead author Jonathan Godbout, associate professor of neuroscience at The Ohio State University and a researcher in the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.
"That suggests there are other factors involved, and that’s why we’re looking at this two-hit idea – the brain injury being the first and then an immune challenge. It's as if one plus one plus one equals 15. There can be a multiplier effect."
The type of brain injury researchers were considering had to do with concussive brain injury. This type of injury results in a diffuse trauma to the brain. People, and mice in this case, recover fairly quickly, typically showing no problems with thinking or moving after the injury. The mice in this study had brain cells on high alert – an inflammatory state – one month after head injury. This is longer than necessary.
"The young adult mice that have a diffuse head injury basically recover to normal, but not everything is normal," Godbout explained. "The brain still has a more inflammatory makeup that is permissive to hyperactivation of an immune response."
These mice were more susceptible to depression when provided circumstances which could produce that reaction. And days later the depressive immune response continued.
Sources: MedicalNewsToday, Biological Psychiatry
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