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Scientists wonder if the head-banging birds can shed light on concussions or other brain conditions
New research has discovered that the brains of woodpeckers do indeed contain a buildup of a protein found in people with brain damage and some neurodegenerative diseases. The protein tau is essential to the function of neurons. However, recent studies have found a link between patients with traumatic brain injuries and a buildup of this particular protein, which is why the researchers chose to examine woodpeckers.
Their research found eight of the 10 woodpecker brains obtained from Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History and the Harvard Museum of Natural History contained elevated levels of tau. None of the control birds — red-winged blackbirds — contained elevated levels of tau.
"The fact that it is there is fascinating because there's the idea that if we're having all these evolutionary adaptations … why would that stop at the brain?" said Cummings. "Why would the brain say, 'Eh, not gonna bother'?"
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative disease found in people who have had multiple head injuries. Symptoms may include behavioral problems, mood problems, and problems with thinking. This typically does not begin until years after the injuries. It often gets worse over time and can result in dementia. It is unclear if the risk of suicide is altered. Most documented cases have occurred in athletes involved in contact sports such as American football, wrestling, ice hockey, rugby, and soccer. Other risk factors include being in the military, prior domestic violence, and repeated banging of the head. The exact amount of trauma required for the condition to occur is unknown. Definitive diagnosis can only occur at autopsy. It is a form of tauopathy.
Yep we are close now.
originally posted by: DrumsRfun
a reply to: howtonhawky
It seems the tau could be protective?
Not all tau is created equal. Cummings explained that some types of the protein are protective, while others accumulate and can become toxic. Could the woodpeckers have the protective form?
"The basic cells of the brain are neurons, which are the cell bodies, and axons, which are like telephone lines that communicate between the neurons. The tau protein wraps around the telephone lines -- it gives them protection and stability while still letting them remain flexible," explains lead author George Farah, who worked on the study as a graduate student at the Boston University School of Medicine.
In moderation, tau proteins can be helpful in stabilizing brain cells, but too much tau build-up can disrupt communication from one neuron to another. "When the brain is damaged, tau collects and disrupts nerve function -- cognitive, emotional, and motor function can be compromised," says Cummings.
originally posted by: howtonhawky
a reply to: DrumsRfun
I have a feeling that if they look further they will find another protein or chem that reduces swelling and scarring in the peckers.