From Sacks to Suicidality: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and the NFL

Neuroscience

By: Jordan Gaines Lewis, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program

2006_Pro_Bowl_tackleAh, football. The great American pastime.

The fresh cut grass and crisply-painted yard lines. The sound of helmets clashing in an epic stack of large men vying for a single ball. Stands packed high with thousands upon thousands of crazed, prideful, body-painted fanatics. The cheerleaders. The roar of the crowd. Chips, dip, and booze. Hilarious touchdown dances. Dementia, confusion, and depression.

Wait, what?

That last bit may not be present on game day, but for many football players, it’s brewing all along—with every clash, tackle, and fall.

Cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, are only now beginning to unfold with postmortem diagnoses and early symptoms of memory loss, depression, confusion, and aggression being reported by former NFL players.

And with the recent settlement involving 4,500+ former footballers against the NFL, the topic of CTE has quickly shifted from being more than just a medical issue.

Goodbye Sun; Hello SAD

Neuroscience

By: Caitlin Millett, 2nd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Program

SAD_manIt’s that time of year again- the end of daylight savings and the beginning of the dark season. As is ominously stated in Game of Thrones: Winter. Is. Coming.

While the majority of us look forward to seasonal festivities, millions can also expect feelings of depression, fatigue, irritability and poor sleep.

This form of mental illness, commonly known as the winter blues, is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is disproportionately represented in populations furthest from the equator. It is estimated that 1-2% of North Americans have a mood disorder with a seasonal pattern, with 10% of New Englanders versus 2% of Floridians affected. Symptoms of SAD include feelings of hopelessness, low concentration, sluggishness, social withdrawal, unhappiness and irritability.

Decades of research has uncovered the culprit behind this debilitating illness: lack of sunlight and disruption of circadian rhythms.