In DepthNeuroscience

Seeking tests for a contested brain disease

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Science  24 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6233, pp. 378-379
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6233.378

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Last year, several news outlets reported that after having his brain scanned at the University of California, Los Angeles, former National Football League (NFL) running back Tony Dorsett was told he shows signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease associated with repeated blows to the head. Dorsett’s bombshell alarmed many CTE researchers: Despite a widespread belief that the neurodegenerative disease CTE is common among athletes in high-impact sports, there is no proven method of diagnosing CTE while a person is alive. High-stakes lawsuits, including ones filed by former players against the NFL, have added to the pressure to come up with methods for diagnosing and tracking the disorder in living people, but such efforts have just crossed the starting line, researchers said last week at a traumatic brain injury conference in Washington, D.C. Only in the past month or so have they arrived at a consensus about what CTE looks like in postmortem brain tissue, findings presented this week in Washington, D.C., at the American Academy of Neurology meeting.