The nature of these injuries they have is similar to human
Understanding and treating traumatic brain injury (TBI) in humans is difficult. However, scientists have found a new tool to study these conditions in the form of head-banging animals such as Bighorn sheep and Muscoxens, in which they have found signs of head trauma.
This discovery contradicts conventional wisdom about the state of the brains of headbutting animals. Some, such as male muscoxens, can reach speeds of up to 48 km/h before colliding with each other as part of mating rituals and social hierarchy, but little evidence of injury or concussion has been found.
The team examined the brains of three dead Muscoxes and four Bighorns, and their initial analysis turned up no surprises: Scans showed intact brain structures in each animal.
The brain was then cut into sections and treated with antibodies that detect a phosphorylated form of a protein called tau, which is common in the brains of patients with TBI and also those with Alzheimer’s disease.
When viewed under a microscope, subtle levels of antibodies were found in the brains of Bighorn sheep. In contrast, the level of antibodies in the muscoxene brain was easily distinguishable, and a large number of tau tangles were found in the prefrontal cortex, especially near the surface.
“ Our results raise the possibility that the brains of these animals are undergoing chronic, repetitive damage, as seen in some patients with TBI ,” the scientists said.