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So, imagine you get punched in the head. Not once, but a bunch of times.

The next day, you’d of course feel dizzy, wary of loud children, and incapable of thoughtful discussion. But under an MRI, the changes to your neural architecture would likely be subtle, difficult to discern. And after a couple of days, any doctor examining your blood or spinal fluid would have trouble uncovering signs of trauma.


Except for one thing. Floating in your blood would be an unusual number of tiny cord-like proteins called neurofilaments. In the brain, these sturdy rods form long cables that help connect one neuron to the next; their presence in a blood sample is like the presence of rubble in a river — a sign of destruction upstream.

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