Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Brian Duistermars

Reader 2

Cathy Reed


Numerous athletes worldwide endure subconcussive and concussive head traumas associated with engagement in contact sports like football, rugby, and boxing. These injuries pose significant risks, with the potential of leading to neurological disorders. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is one of the most severe of these disorders. Observable symptoms of CTE include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression, anxiety, suicidality, and in later-stage developments: Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and dementia (Fesharaki-Zadeh, 2019). Currently, CTE can only be definitively diagnosed through post-mortem brain autopsy. CTE develops from disrupted tau protein regulation, which is important in maintaining neuronal structure. The aggregation of tau proteins results in the formation of abnormal clusters of neurofibrillary tangles which ultimately causes neuronal degradation. Recent studies utilizing methods including transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and PET imaging suggest expanding research on athletes with previous head injuries to identify early signs of dementia. In this thesis, we propose a study extending the work conducted by Pearce and colleagues (2017) to investigate new ways of identifying CTE in living individuals. In the experiment, three groups of retired athletes are assigned to one of three test groups: symptomatic, asymptomatic, or 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. Tau PET imaging represents a developing method for diagnosing and determining the stages of tauopathy, a sign of early-onset dementia. The use of neuronal imaging as a mechanism for early detection could potentially transform research, not only in the aiding of early identification of dementia but also advancing investigations into non-invasive treatments for Alzheimer's disease. Further, with the potential success in the proposed experiment, there is a possibility of reducing premature deaths caused by CTE.

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