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Motor system alterations in retired former athletes: the role of aging and concussion history

Louis De Beaumont134, Sébastien Tremblay14, Luke C Henry1, Judes Poirier3, Maryse Lassonde12 and Hugo Théoret124*

Author Affiliations

1 Centre de recherche en neuropsychologie et cognition (CERNEC), Université de Montréal, Montréal, Canada

2 CHU Sainte-Justine, Montréal, Canada

3 Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Perry Hall, 6875 Blvd Lasalle, Verdun, Quebec H4H 1R3, Canada

4 Department of Psychology, University of Montreal, CP 6128, Succ. Centre-Ville, Montreal, QC H3C 3J7, Canada

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BMC Neurology 2013, 13:109  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-13-109

Published: 26 August 2013



Retired athletes with a history of sports concussions experience cognitive and motor declines with aging, and the risk of severe neurodegenerative conditions is magnified in this population. The present study investigated the effects of aging on motor system metabolism and function in former university-level athletes who sustained their last concussion several decades prior to testing.


To test the hypothesis that age and remote concussions induce functional as well as metabolic alterations of the motor system, we used proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy to detect metabolic abnormalities in the primary motor cortex and the serial reaction time task (SRTT) to evaluate motor learning.


Our results indicate that motor learning is significantly reduced in former concussed athletes relative to controls. In addition, glutamate/H2O ratio in M1 was disproportionately reduced in concussed athletes with advancing age and was found to strongly correlate with motor learning impairments.


Findings from this study provide evidence that the acquisition of a repeated motor sequence is compromised in the aging concussed brain and that its physiological underpinnings could implicate disproportionate reductions of M1 glutamate concentrations with advancing age.

Motor learning; Retired athletes; Concussion; Motor cortex; Magnetic resonance spectroscopy