What is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)?

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, is a progressive degenerative disease affecting people who have suffered repeated concussions and traumatic brain injuries, that may occur in some athletes and others who have been exposed to concussions and repetitive head impacts. One theory about the cause of CTE is that repeated injuries to the brain causes a buildup of an abnormal form of the tau protein which may interfere with the function of the brain’s neurons. Not everyone who has a brain injury or who has been exposed to repetitive head impacts develops CTE. In fact, at this time, research has not yet revealed how many or which individuals exposed to repetitive injuries will develop this condition.

Symptoms of CTE

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy typically presents with several of the same symptoms seen in those who suffer from other kinds of dementia, including memory loss, aggression, confusion depression, impaired judgement, difficulty controlling impulses, erratic behavior, suicidal tendencies, anxiety, trouble sleeping, dizziness and trouble balancing. Changes in the brain and related symptoms may begin months or years—or even decades—after the last brain trauma incident.

Diagnosis and Treatment

At this time, no treatment for CTE is available. Researchers are conducting studies to better understand the development, progression, risk factors and diagnosis of this condition. CTE is only diagnosed definitively by studying brain tissue after death. Investigators are working to identify methods and biomarkers that would allow health care professionals to diagnose CTE In living subjects.

CTE and Alzheimer’s disease: What’s the difference?

While both Alzheimer’s disease and CTE may present with similar symptoms, significant differences do exist between the two. Alzheimer’s disease typically presents with memory complaints and problems, whereas the initial symptoms of CTE are often problems with impaired judgement and reasoning, impulse control and aggression.