Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Brian Duistermars

Reader 2

Catherine L. Reed

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© 2023 Jade Laura Johnson


Numerous athletes worldwide endure subconcussive and concussive head traumas, which is often attributed to the engagement in contact sports like football, rugby, and boxing. These injuries pose significant risks, potentially leading to various neurological disorders, among which chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) stands as one of the most severe. Disturbingly, CTE diagnosis remains post-mortem, and can be solely determined through a brain autopsy. Despite observable symptoms, which includes memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression, anxiety, suicidality, and later-stage developments like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and dementia, no preventive treatment exists (Boston University). CTE develops from a disruption in regulating the tau protein mechanism, which is important in maintaining the neuron's structure. The aggregation of tau proteins results in the formation of abnormal clusters, known as neurofibrillary tangles, causing neuronal degradation. Recent experiments,using techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and tau & PET/MRI imaging, propose further studies of athletes with a history of head traumas to detect early-stage dementia. These studies encompass three test groups: symptomatic, asymptomatic, and a control group. Each undergoes pre-screening suitability assessments, symptom surveys, somatosensory data processing, and TMS. These tests assess an individual's reaction rate and depiction of different stimuli strengths. Additionally, tau and PET/MRI imaging yield tau images, revealing higher temporal depositions in the hippocampus, a sign of early-onset dementia. Utilizing these neuronal imaging devices as early detection mechanisms can potentially revolutionize research, not only aiding in the early identification of dementia but also advancing investigations into drug treatments for Alzheimer's and dementia. This advancement could significantly reduce premature deaths attributed to CTE.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.