(As reported in December issue of “Discover” magazine)

A mild concussion leaves the victim dazed, confused & disoriented, but the victim does not necessarily loose consciousness or blacks out.

All Concussions Occur at a Cellular Level  

At the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center, neuropsychologist David Hovda explains that “immediately after a concussion, all the cells in the brain fire at once – a massive electrical discharge ‘like a miniseizure,’ he says, indiscriminately releasing an excitatory neurotransmitter called glutamate, which in turn triggers brain cells to release potassium. As potassium rushes out of the cells, calcium rushes in and takes up residence in the mitochondria, the cell’s power centers. To restore imbalances, the brain requires considerable energy, which comes in the form of glucose (sugar). But the mitochondria, which are essential to glucose metabolism, have become impaired as a result of the excess calcium.  This leads to what Hovda calls a ‘cellular energy crisis’ in which cells begin to die.”  Aerobic Metabolism of glucose requires oxygen. If there is not enough oxygen to metabolize glucose, another method (Anaerobic metabolism) is used that creates the toxic byproduct, lactate which damages cell walls.

What Can Concussions Lead To?

Kevin Guskiewiczs’ research, director of the Center for Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, indicates that mild concussions in adults can lead to depression and mild cognitive impairment with memory impairment and a much higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Christopher Giza’s research, the neurologist for the Center, found that “one of the consequences of glutamate release (during a concussion) is the overstimulation of the brain’s N-methyl-D aspartate (NMDA) receptors.  Normal stimulation of the NMDA receptors is essential to brain development & plasticity, but too much can have negative effects.  Traumatic injuries may overstimulate the NMDA receptors, rendering them less responsive to stimulation.” This could cause a Child’s brain to not develop in response to a stimulating learning environment, preventing the child from reaching his genetic IQ potential.

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