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CTE researchers seek to study more female brains

October 11, 2018

Scientists researching chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in athletes consider women to be a vulnerable demographic but they need to be able to study more female brains to determine why.

“We have large gaps in the number of women’s brains we’ve collected,” McKee said in a teleconference with reporters Thursday. “We need to know if there are gender differences in CTE, which we do suspect, but we don’t have evidence for it at this point.”

McKee directs Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy and is known for her pioneering research into CTE. The center has a “brain bank” of more than 625 brains that were donated for research, which came from donors of a range of ages who played a variety of sports.

Although men receive more concussions because they play high-contact sports more than women, women suffer concussions at a higher rate, according to researchers. They are studying whether it could be due to hormonal differencesbetween men and women or physiological differences in the neck, among other possibilities.

Prior research also showed that it takes longer for women to recover from concussions than men.

Outside athletic participation, concussions also can occur due to intimate partner violence, which disproportionately affects women, Angela Colantonio of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute said.

“This area of inquiry is pretty in-development, because historically there has been not a lot of attention or systematic integration of sex and gender in our research,” Colantonio said.

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