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Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia. Dementia is a broader term for conditions caused by brain injuries or diseases that negatively affect memory, thinking, and behaviour. These changes interfere with daily living. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Most people with the disease get a diagnosis after age 65. If it’s diagnosed before then, it’s generally referred to as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are treatments that can slow the progression of the disease.

Brain Awareness Month brings with it increased publicity around neurological conditions and injuries of the brain and spinal cord and the need for greater public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. Brain tumour research is marking the occasion with National Wear a Hat Day (29/03/2019), and neuroscience research groups prepare for a flurry of lectures and conferences to impart the latest news and updates from the field.

Recent Research

Significant progress was made during the last couple of years regarding the prevention and early intervention, through research studies e.g.

Traumatic brain injury usually results from a violent blow or jolt to the head or body. An object that penetrates brain tissue, such as a bullet or shattered piece of skull, also can cause traumatic brain injury. Traumatic brain injury can have wide-ranging physical and psychological effects. Some signs or symptoms may appear immediately after the traumatic event, while others may appear days or weeks later (Traumatic brain injury: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/tbi/detail_tbi.htm. Accessed Oct. 16, 2017)

Birth injuries

The authors intend to highlight the fact that many children may be cognitively impaired as a result of trauma during birth, some of which may have been prevented.

Head trauma may occur during delivery and can lead to several conditions for the infant including caput succedaneum, cephalohematoma, and normal head deformity due to birth forces, subgaleal hemorrhage, subdural haemorrhage, subarachnoid haemorrhage, and epidural haemorrhage.

In addition to head trauma, there are also several other types of birth injuries that can occur within any hospital environment.

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a chronic disability of the central nervous system characterised by abnormal control of movement and posture. Cerebral palsy can be caused by deprivation of oxygen before or during birth.  Delay in the delivery can lead to hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).  Cerebral palsy can be caused by brain damage from lack of oxygen due to an event during labour or delivery. When this happens in full term babies, the newborn will have evidence of severe pH abnormality in the cord blood and neurologic abnormalities soon after birth. Frequently there will be signs of sudden oxygen deprivation seen on the fetal monitor, very low Apgar scores at birth, and involvement of other organs such as the kidneys within a few days. The cause of some cases of CP remains unknown.

Sometimes developmental problems before birth are responsible. CP may be caused by fetal stroke in the uterus before labour, fetal infection before birth, malformation of the brain originating at conception, genetic diseases, and complications of prematurity or unknown causes.

According to the American Journal of Neuroradiology, perinatal asphyxia happens in 2 to 10 newborns out of every 1000 that are born at term. Perinatal asphyxia is the medical condition resulting from deprivation of oxygen to a newborn infant long enough to cause apparent harm. It results most commonly from a drop in maternal blood pressure or interference during delivery with blood flow to the infant’s brain.

(The #11 online Resource for TBI Information & Help Powered by Tools for Meeting Life’s Challenges, Inc. (http://www.traumaticbraininjury.com/birth-trauma/) Accessed 11/06//2019).