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Brain disease as a disabling condition: research and treatment

There are many causes of disability that can make someone eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Some of them involve work accidents. Others involve mental or physical conditions that may or may not have been suffered at - or made worse by - work.

Brain injuries are certainly among the most serious of such conditions. When someone has a chronic brain injury, it can result not only in disability, but in death.

There are, of course, a number of different types of brain injuries. For people injured in motor vehicle accidents, mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a common challenge. Military veterans who have been deployed abroad also often face this type of injury.

Increasing attention is also being paid to injuries associated with concussions. In particular, research is underway on the effects of concussions on former football players.

Last week, a study was released on the effects of a brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Using low-dose radioactive brain scans, researchers identified CTE in five former NFL players.

CTE has been linked to depression and dementia, as well as suicide. A high-profile former NFL linebacker, Junior Seau, took his own life. The National Institutes of Health has said that tests of Seau's brain indicated the presence of CTE.

The study released last week was based on research done at a neuroscience institute at UCLA. Researchers are hopeful that the results will lead to earlier diagnosis of brain diseases and the development of new treatments.

Source: "Study gives hopes for brain disease treatment," Gary Mihoces, USA Today, 1-23-13

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