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Repeated Memory

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Traumatic brain injury has been shown to lead to brain degenerative diseases. Brain degenerative diseases are types of diseases that begin to deteriorate brain cells, resulting in the subject to begin to lose communications through the body’s system, and for their health to decline. To find out how the brain is affected directly after brain damage was the purpose of this experiment. This experiment was conducted with coenobita clypaetus and tested their ability to complete a maze before and after receiving a concussion/multiple concussion. Coenobita clypaetus will be placed and timed through a maze, then will be concussed using hand-built device, giving them concussions at the same rate of force each time. Times will be record pre and post-concussion and showed the difference and effect that a concussion has on the brain. Results showed that the control group, with no trauma being administered to them, were the fastest to complete the maze over test subjects who were administered concussions.(Human Brain Diseases List)

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The purpose for doing this project is to test the short-term effect that concussions have on memory loss. About 6.8 million people die per year from brain degenerative diseases, making brain injuries very influential in someone’s life. The source of the idea is from how concussions cause traumatic brain injury (TBI) after the initial impact. The idea originated from how TBI has a long-term effect on the subject’s brain, and how the memory is affected on a short-term basis. Testing is done on coenobita clypaetus. Groups of coenobita clypaetus run trials through mazes, then run trials through the mazes after they receive a concussion. This is meant to compare the memory before and after a concussion. Coenobita clypaetus will also go through one additional trial 2-weeks post-concussion. The hypothesis is that if repeated head trauma has an impact on memory loss, the coenobita clypaetus will take a greater time to complete the maze after they are concussed.

Background Research

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury. They are when the head experiences trauma, and they can cause severe brain damage. Some symptoms of a concussion are lasting headache, dizziness, ringing in ears, feeling lightheaded or confused, vomiting, and blacking out. Concussions are dangerous because they can cause lots of damage to the brain, especially sports concussions. When an athlete gets a concussion, the protocol to return is very rigorous, with several mental and physical tests. This is to be sure the athlete has recovered completely, and it is safe for them to return to sports, and that they cannot further worsen the concussions. Concussions are thought to be a key factor in brain degenerative diseases later, like chronic traumatic encephalopathy and cerebrovascular disease, tying into the claim that TBI causes BDG.

 Cerebrovascular disease (CVD), is a disease that can alter how the blood flows to the brain, how the brain views and transmits signals through the body. CVD is a risk because of how the brain controls the human body, and with the brain being affected and not being able to send the correct signal to the nervous system and interpret what is happening to the body. CVD is also linked to TBI because it causes brain cells to degenerate, like how Alzheimer’s disease works. 

A basic symptom of any brain injury is dizziness. Dizziness is feeling lightheaded or unbalanced. If one is feeling dizziness for a long enough time, they can pass out. It is very common to feel dizziness after a head injury. In a study done on young athletes with concussions, scientists tested on subjects to determine where the dizziness was coming from after their concussion with several different kinds of tests. Results showed that dizziness does not come from one specific area after a concussion but comes from multiple locations depending on the severity of the concussion and other factors. Dizziness should be diagnosed after doing multiple tests to locate where it is from. (Jennifer C Reneker, 2018) 

A study done on memory and how working memory of college athletes is affected by concussions. There were 2 different groups that participated in the study, one was made up of athletes with concussions and the other was the control group with no concussions. Memory loss was shown with parts of the test that had to do with verbal memory (Caitlin M Hudac). In the end, it was athletes who suffered from multiple concussions that had problems with their verbal memory, rather than the control group of college athletes with no concussions. The results from this study go onto show how repeated head trauma can cause problems for an individual and demonstrates in what area. 

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that slowly begins to destroy a person’s memory, it can escalate to the point where the memory is so flawed that the subject cannot do a simple task without losing track of what they were doing, or if they are having a conversation, they begin to just drift off in mid-sentence. Alzheimer’s usually begins around the age of 65, but early-onset Alzheimer’s can begin in people under the age of 65. Despite what most people think, dementia is not something that just happens with old age, there are potential links to dementia and different forms of it beginning due to TBI.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s can occur in people ages 40-50. Genetics can be involved in Alzheimer’s as many people who have close blood relatives suffer from it and it can be found in genes and that leads to Alzheimer’s or early-onset Alzheimer’s. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s but there are treatments, like memory loss medication, going outside, and doing thinking activities. Changes in an angered person’s surroundings could help them to relax and calm down, also give them less to be angered by. This is helpful to anyone who is angry with anyone they live by or associate with in their nursing home. 

The current link between traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer’s disease (dementia) is thought to be cerebrovascular disease (Jaime Ramos-Ceiudo, 2018). Cerebrovascular disease can cause the degeneration of brain cells, so that is a main factor of what causes Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Neurodegeneration is when brain cells decompose, this is what happens during diseases like Alzheimer’s. In a study about juvenile TBI in rats showed that amyloid increased around cerebral vessels and then decreased about 25%-34% from 2 months to 6 months. This means that amyloids build up around the damaged vessels in the brain. This information leads us to conclude that Alzheimer’s and concussions can be linked to each other through cerebrovascular disease, because of the similar effects it causes from both types of brain damage.  (Sarah M Lane, 2017) 

Post-concussion syndrome is also very dangerous. PCS happens after a head injury, but not always. It usually happens in people, who have had multiple head injuries, or repeated concussions in a short time frame (Jaime Ramos-Ceiudo, 2018). People who have frequent migraines, anxiety or suffer from lots of stress usually suffer from the long-term effect of concussions. Post-concussion syndrome has no relation to the force of the traumatic brain damage. 

Structural brain changes can be linked to physical activity and the grey matter has changed in areas with relations to physical activity. This study meant that the athletes who did not have any concussions were affected and their exposure the repeated head contact did make some physical changes to the brain’s structure. The brain’s structure is important because the vessels can not enable oxygen to go through them, and without oxygen, the brain will undeniably shut down. (L R Caplan, 1986) 

Another form of brain degenerative disease is chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE can currently only be diagnosed after the subject is deceased. It is found in people who suffered from many concussions and head injuries, so currently they are finding it in several American football players ranging from the high school, college and professional levels. What happens in CTE is the actual brain begins to lose mass, since it degenerates. The brain eventually loses so much mass the disease will end up killing the host. In order to prevent this, the treatment for concussions should improve as well as protective wear, such as helmets and pads. By improving the protective gear that the players wear, this could prevent several risks for the future from brain degenerative diseases.

The symptoms include memory loss, impulsive outbreaks of angry behavior, and difficulty balancing. CTE can be diagnosed wrong, because several symptoms are taken to just be early-onset dementia or just that the brain is aging. With the lack of information on the disease, it is important to be able to try to diagnose it. Currently, there seems to be a link between CTE and tau protein, a protein in nerve cells, to being able to diagnose the disease in currently living people. If way to find a diagnosis is found soon, there could be treatment that begins and helps people fight against this disease. In the future, with enough screening, diseases like CTE can be preventing with the proper treatment and testing for them. (Sara Tremblay, 2017) 

Dementia itself is a term that describes a kind of memory problem that influences a person’s ability to complete basic everyday tasks that are a part of their routine. People can lose track of what they are doing, misplace their objects, and if severe enough, what they are saying almost mid-sentence. Dementia not only includes Alzheimer’s and early-onset Alzheimer’s, it is and can affect Down Syndrome, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and traumatic brain injury. Symptoms of dementia are having trouble remembering where you left things you need, forgetting little things, getting distracted easily, becoming confused with your surroundings even if they are familiar to you, and changes in personal demeanor.  

 Dementia is also such a dangerous disease because of the physical toll it takes on the brain. The disease cells begin to slowly deteriorate the brain and eat away at cells. This is a problem because by someone losing cells, their ability to complete tasks begins to fade because even though someone could be once familiar with something, without their cells, the brain struggles to communicate with the rest of itself and other bodily systems. This can cause the body to begin to struggle with basic tasks at first, but then they become hareder for them to complete tasks and they cannot remember or do anything.

A study done on fruit flies was also helpful to determining how traumatic brain injury possibly affects humans and how the brain is damaged from these interactions. The fruit fly brain is covered in a hard, external layer, with fluid on the inside. If the fly does retain a concussion, then their brain will move around in the fluid, similar to how ours moves in our skull after we get a concussion. In this particular study, geneticist Barry Ganetzky is taking fruit flies, placing them inside a glass vial, then taking that vial and hitting it against a padded surface. His team then does autopsies on the flies, and records the similarities between concussed flies and humans, which includes coordination and loss of consciousness. (Fecht, 2014) 

Parkinson’s disease is another form of dementia that forms later in life, unlike Alzheimer’s. It most directly influences the motor system, part of the central nervous system. The early symptoms are shaking, walking slow, difficulty walking, trouble sleeping depression and dementia develops in the future at a certain time. Parkinson’s is not fatal like Alzheimer’s but complications that make it difficult to live can be from the disease. The cause of Parkinson’s is still unknown, but geneticists believe it is from either genetic relationships or trauma that the brain experiences.

Another study done on mild TBI in high school athletes resulted in the data that 63% of the MTBI incidents occurred with football players. This study was done over 3 years, and 10 sports were tested. These sports included football, baseball, softball, boys’ and girls’ basketball, boys’ and girls’ soccer, boys’ and girls’ field hockey and volleyball.

Atrial fibrillation also has been shown to increase the risks of someone having future memory issues, as well as their ability to process thought. Atrial fibrillation is when the heart beats at an irregular pace, instead of beating on a regular pace. This causes the blood inside the heart to begin to form small bundles, or clots, and these can get into the bloodstream. This is dangerous because the blood clots getting into the bloodstream can work their way up into the brain, clog the brain and then seriously injure or even kill. This happens because the blood cannot flow smoothly through the brain, and this causes it to injure or kill the human.

Hemorrhages in the brain are when the brain experiences trauma, mild or severe, which results in the brain actually bleeding and taking serious damage. The brain needs lots of oxygen in order to function, and when the blood begins to leak, the brain cannot give oxygen through the broken vessels, causing the brain to suffer greatly. There are 3 types of brain hemorrhages: intracranial, cerebral and hemorrhagic. Intracranial is when the bleeding of the brain occurs inside of the skull, inside by the cranium. An intracerebral hemmorhage is when bleeding occurs around the brain or in the brain itself. A hemorrhagic stroke is when a blood vessel bursts in the skull. This can happen when a blood vessel becomes torn or begins leaking blood through the vessel. These types of injuries are very dangerous to undergo, with the damage caused to the brain being very quick and dangerous to the human it occurs inside of. Treatment of hemorrhages are surgery, anti-epileptic drugs, and physical therapy can help people recover from hemorrhages. (Oliver, Z)

Procedures and Materials

12 coenobita clypaetus (hermit crabs)

FloraCraft Styrofoam Block 1.9 Inch x 11.8 Inch x 17.8 Inch White  

Fluker’s Sand Substrate

1×1 Masonite Methods

To Build Maze

Draw out desired path on the bottom of the box with a pencil.

Make the initial path, then add false paths and dead ends after the main path has been created.

Measure out how long the walls should be.

Take extra cardboard, and then measure based on the lines and plan on the bottom.

 The length of the walls does not matter, but they all should be 7.62 cm wide. 

Take hot glue gun and hot glue the strips to the bottom of the box and follow outline to add dead ends and walls. Cross-member 1x4x10 to hold the platform.

Use the screws on the back to adjust height of device.

Cut the platform using a plywood sheet, 17.78 cm x 20.32 cm.

Add hinges to top of neck, then add platform onto the top of the neck.

Drill hole for trigger in between neck supports.

Use a 3/16×7.25 rod for the trigger, and make sure hole is wide enough for rod to smoothly come out.

Use plastic wood to fill in any holes/gaps in the base.

Testing Procedures

Construct maze (instructions above)

Construct device (instructions above)

Weigh each crab (to determine if weight affects the concussion rate).

Wash hands and put on protective eyewear and gloves before interacting with coenobita clypaetus.

Begin control group testing.

Test two days consecutively, one day rest, and then two more consecutive testing days.

Place food at end of maze/on the right path.

Place crab into the starting point of the maze.

Turn lamp on to face the maze, turning off every 15 minutes for 2 minutes.

Observe how crab moves, what way are taken and how active crab is in movements.

When finished, place back into enclosure.

Record times for each crab.

After testing control, begin with testing concussed groups.

Repeat steps 5-9, but instead of a rest day, place coenobita clypaetus on concussing device.

Raise device height to 14 cm.

Take rod and insert it into hole on device.

Make sure level is even, and that the platform is balanced.

Place crab on top of platform, and then pull out rod when ready.

Once crab falls on padding, place back inside enclosure.

Once baseline testing is done, follow-up testing (one day) will be conducted 2 weeks later.

Repeat steps 5-9 for testing 2 weeks post-concussion.

Analyze data and finish testing.

Place data in line graphs to determine results.

Conclude experiment.

Data Analysis

Figure 1.1 This graph shows each group’s average time in minutes to complete the maze, with the hous before and after concussions.

Figure 1.2 Error bars for 24 hours after subjects received concussions.

Figure 1.3 The error bars for 48 hours after the subjects received their concussions.


The results show that the control group was the fastest group in testing, showing that the hypothesis was supported. This is most likely because with the lack of head trauma affecting their testing, their memory of the maze’s path improved, allowing them to finish the maze faster. Observations taken from the control group and group 1 show the differences between subjects with and without trauma. Control subjects began to decrease in times after day 3 (Wednesday) with one subject finishing at a time of 4:33, going down in time by about 5 minutes from the previous trial. Comparing to a subject in the 1 impact group, whose time went up about 6 minutes on their last day of testing from the last day they tested before impact. Several concussion group subjects did show a simile pattern. They went slightly down in time from their initial testing, but then increased on the next day of testing. Most likely, the subjects had retained most memory of the maze, making them faster after the concussions, but the effects of the concussion set in 48 hours after. Testing methods themselves could be improved in many ways. For example, crabs were found in different enclosures than their designated enclosure. This could be improved by giving them separate habitats. The single enclosure proved no issue with crabs escaping, so if repeated these measures will be taken. Also, during testing due to lack of time subjects were placed in maze at staggered times. Once one crab had reached about halfway, another crab was placed in to begin their trials. This placed no effect on results. And results were kept accurate as 2 stopwatches were used, one per crab. However, there was potential for crabs to meet during testing.  As similarly found in Caitlin M Hudac’s study, the results showed that subjects have an affect on their working memory, even as basic invertebrates. Also, subjects post-concussion did demonstrate some of the symptoms mentioned in

Further Research

To expand on this project, testing could be repeated and edited as stated in conclusion. Testing could also be completed with different kinds of subjects, whether it be a different kind of invertebrate or with vertebrate subjects. Testing on vertebrate subjects would require adjustments to the concussing device possibly, or a different type of maze. Testing could be done on a cellular level as well, potentially using brain cells from organisms that experienced head trauma, and working to reduce the spread of disease. A similar study would be Ganetzsky’s study with fruit flies, where he used concussed fruit flies to show similarities to symptoms humans suffer from.(Fecht,S). Potentially, cells fresh after concussion could be used, but this would be an advanced project with much paperwork. 

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