Studying connections between brain injuries and dementia

With a DoD New Investigator Award, Assistant Professor Andrei Irimia explores why some people who suffer a traumatic brain injury face an increased risk of dementia while others don't.

Assistant Professor Andrei Irimia

New research from USC Leonard Davis School Professor Andrei Irimia aims to use detailed brain scans to help determine why traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), such as concussions, can put certain patients at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and related dementias (ADRD) than others.

An estimated 5.6 million Americans suffer from AD. Head injuries are a big problem, too. Falls are the cause of two of every three cases of TBI in older adults, and injuries sustained at any age are suspected of putting people at increased risk for ADRD, according to Irimia.

One of only four investigators nationwide to recently receive a New Investigator Award from the DoD’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs’ Peer Reviewed Alzheimer’s Program, Irimia is comparing anatomic properties of TBI-affected brains and looking at how factors like injury severity, number and age at occurrence make their mark in the brain — something that used to be viewable only during autopsies.

The results of his research could help scientists predict who is most likely to develop AD after a head injury, and why. “By establishing who is at highest risk, we can help prioritize care and monitoring of head injuries and hopefully decrease the incidence of AD,” said Irimia.