Research from the National Institute of Health, published in the August 3, 2015 issue of JAMA Neurology, shows that a protein that was until recently linked only to acute symptoms following traumatic brain injury, may also be responsible for chronic neurological symptoms, such as headache and dizziness,  found in patients diagnosed with persistent post-concussion syndrome.

Tau is a protein known to play a significant role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Using ultra-sensitive technology, the researchers measured levels of tau in the blood months and years after injury. These levels correlated with the severity of post-concussive symptoms. If these findings are further confirmed, this could be the first biomarker that is sensitive and specific to ongoing TBI symptoms.

The researchers adopt the current “disease process” model to explain these findings. “Months to years after the primary brain injury,” Anlys Olivera, Phd, one of researchers wrote, “there may be a continuation of secondary injuries with residual axonal degeneration and blood-brain barrier disruptions in this population that may contribute to the maintenance of post-concussive disorder symptoms and affect symptom severity.”

Tau protein is not only a marker of brain injury, it can contribute to secondary injury processes such as inflammation. This research may help with the development of therapies to prevent the aggregation of tau and the consequences of this aggregation.