Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegeneration characterized by the abnormal accumulation of hyperphosphorylated tau protein within the brain. Like many other neurodegenerative conditions, at present, CTE can only be definitively diagnosed by post-mortem examination of brain tissue. As the first part of a series of consensus panels funded by the NINDS/NIBIB to define the neuropathological criteria for CTE, preliminary neuropathological criteria were used by 7 neuropathologists to blindly evaluate 25 cases of various tauopathies, including CTE, Alzheimer's disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, argyrophilic grain disease, corticobasal degeneration, primary age-related tauopathy, and parkinsonism dementia complex of Guam. The results demonstrated that there was good agreement among the neuropathologists who reviewed the cases (Cohen's kappa, 0.67) and even better agreement between reviewers and the diagnosis of CTE (Cohen's kappa, 0.78). Based on these results, the panel defined the pathognomonic lesion of CTE as an accumulation of abnormal hyperphosphorylated tau (p-tau) in neurons and astroglia distributed around small blood vessels at the depths of cortical sulci and in an irregular pattern. The group also defined supportive but non-specific p-tau-immunoreactive features of CTE as: pretangles and NFTs affecting superficial layers (layers II-III) of cerebral cortex; pretangles, NFTs or extracellular tangles in CA2 and pretangles and proximal dendritic swellings in CA4 of the hippocampus; neuronal and astrocytic aggregates in subcortical nuclei; thorn-shaped astrocytes at the glial limitans of the subpial and periventricular regions; and large grain-like and dot-like structures. Supportive non-p-tau pathologies include TDP-43 immunoreactive neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions and dot-like structures in the hippocampus, anteromedial temporal cortex and amygdala. The panel also recommended a minimum blocking and staining scheme for pathological evaluation and made recommendations for future study. This study provides the first step towards the development of validated neuropathological criteria for CTE and will pave the way towards future clinical and mechanistic studies.
Keywords: Brain trauma; Chronic traumatic encephalopathy; Neurodegenerative disorders; Tauopathy; Traumatic brain injury.