Difference found in brain area linked to memory among college football players

May 13, 2014

Preliminary research finds that within a group of collegiate football players, those who experienced a concussion or had been playing for more years had smaller hippocampal volume (an area of the brain important for memory) than those with fewer years of football experience, according to a study in the May 14 issue of JAMA. In addition, more years of playing football was correlated with slower reaction time.

The hippocampus is a brain region involved in regulating multiple cognitive and emotional processes affected by concussion and is particularly sensitive to moderate and severe (TBI). Emerging evidence suggests that the hippocampus is also vulnerable to mild TBI, as indicated by volume reduction and postconcussion abnormalities of hippocampal function. There are limited data on the long-term anatomical and cognitive consequences of concussion and subconcussive impacts on young athletes, according to background information in the article.

Rashmi Singh, Ph.D., of the Laureate Institute for Brain Research, Tulsa, and colleagues investigated the relationship between years of football playing experience and history of concussion with cognitive performance and in collegiate . The study included 25 players with a history of clinician-diagnosed concussion, collegiate football players without a history of concussion (n = 25), and non-football-playing, healthy controls (n = 25). High-resolution anatomical magnetic resonance imaging was used to quantify volumes. Scores on a computerized concussion-related cognitive test were used to assess the athletes.

The researchers found smaller hippocampal volumes in athletes compared with healthy control participants. Players with a history of concussion had smaller hippocampal volumes than players without . Number of years of football-playing experience was inversely associated with both hippocampal volume and reaction time.

"The present study design limits our ability to dissociate [regard as unconnected] among the many possible factors involved in these hippocampal volume findings, but our study should serve as an impetus for future longitudinal research to investigate the neuroanatomical and cognitive changes in young contact-sport athletes. The clinical significance of the observed hippocampal size differences is unknown at this time," the authors conclude.

Explore further: Risk factors identified for prolonged sports concussion symptoms

More information: DOI: 10.1001/jama.2014.3313

Related Stories

U of A research leads to enhanced CFL concussion guidelines

June 5, 2013

Research from the University of Alberta shows CFL players are more likely to value medical tests after concussions compared to university-level players. But the professional athletes were more apt to incorrectly believe it's ...

Recommended for you

Erasing unpleasant memories with a genetic switch

June 30, 2016

Researchers from KU Leuven (Belgium) and the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology (Germany) have managed to erase unpleasant memories in mice using a 'genetic switch'. Their findings were published in Biological Psychiatry.

Motivation to bully is regulated by brain reward circuits

June 29, 2016

Individual differences in the motivation to engage in or to avoid aggressive social interaction (bullying) are mediated by the basal forebrain, lateral habenula circuit in the brain, according to a study conducted at the ...

New clues about the aging brain's memory functions

June 29, 2016

A European study led by Umeå University Professor Lars Nyberg, has shown that the dopamine D2 receptor is linked to the long-term episodic memory, which function often reduces with age and due to dementia. This new insight ...

New technology could deliver drugs to brain injuries

June 28, 2016

A new study led by scientists at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) describes a technology that could lead to new therapeutics for traumatic brain injuries. The discovery, published today in Nature ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.