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Aaron Hernandez’s brain tissue showed severe memory damage

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT Dr Ann McKee says she could not say for certain that the 27-year-old New En..

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  • WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
  • Dr Ann McKee says she could not say for certain that the 27-year-old New England Patriots star's CTE caused his criminal and suicidal behavior
  • But her analysis revealed his disease did severely damage crucial regions
  • Aaron Hernandez committed suicide in April while serving life in prison for murder
  • In September, Dr Ann McKee posthumously diagnosed him with CTE, a football-linked brain disease which causes dementia and aggression
  • On Thursday, she presented her findings in detail at Boston University
  • The university also released photos of Dr McKee analyzing Hernandez's brain, and a scan comparing his brain with that of a healthy 27-year-old

By Mia De Graaf For Dailymail.com

Published: 14:22 EST, 9 November 2017 | Updated: 15:47 EST, 9 November 2017

Diagnosed: Aaron Hernandez killed himself at the age of 27 in April while serving life in prison for murder. The scientists who analyzed his brain have now confirmed it was the worst case of CTE they have ever seen

Diagnosed: Aaron Hernandez killed himself at the age of 27 in April while serving life in prison for murder. The scientists who analyzed his brain have now confirmed it was the worst case of CTE they have ever seen

The neuroscientist who analyzed Aaron Hernandez's brain has confirmed that he suffered the worst case ever seen in someone so young, with severe damage to regions that affect memory, impulse control and behavior.

The 27-year-old former New England Patriots player killed himself in April while serving life in prison for murder.

In September, Dr Ann McKee of the CTE Center at Boston University posthumously diagnosed Hernandez with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a football-linked disease that causes dementia and aggression.

On Thursday, Dr McKee formally presented her findings and confirmed that she had never encountered such extreme degradation in a young brain, pointing out areas of severe tissue damage and microbleeds likely caused by blows to the head.

Dr McKee says she could not say for certain that Hernandez's criminal and suicidal acts were a result of his severe case of CTE, nor whether other 27-year-old players could plausibly have the same pathology. But she says Hernandez suffered substantial damage to several important regions, including the frontal lobe.

His attorneys have sued the NFL and football helmet maker Riddell, accusing them of failing to warn Hernandez about the dangers of football.

'In any individual, we can't take the pathology and explain the behavior,' Dr Ann McKee said, speaking at the landmark event at Boston's annual CTE conference.

'But we can say collectively, in our collective experience, that individuals with CTE and CTE of this severity have difficulty with impulse control, decision making, inhibition or impulses or aggression, often emotional volatility and rage behavior.'

Worst case of CTE: These scans show how Aaron Hernandez's brain was so severely damaged compared to a healthy 27-year-old brain. He was diagnosed with stage three out of four, with four being the most severe. His scans reveal significant damage (circled) to regions that control memory, impulse control and behaviorWorst case of CTE: These scans show how Aaron Hernandez's brain was so severely damaged compared to a healthy 27-year-old brain. He was diagnosed with stage three out of four, with four being the most severe. His scans reveal significant damage (circled) to regions that control memory, impulse control and behavior

Worst case of CTE: These scans show how Aaron Hernandez's brain was so severely damaged compared to a healthy 27-year-old brain. He was diagnosed with stage three out of four, with four being the most severe. His scans reveal significant damage (circled) to regions that control memory, impulse control and behavior

Ann McKee, Director of the BU CTE Center and Chief of Neuropathology for the VA Boston Healthcare System, and Victor Alvarez MD, Neuropathologist, VA Boston Healthcare System, conduct the post-mortem study of the brain of former NFL player Aaron HernandezAnn McKee, Director of the BU CTE Center and Chief of Neuropathology for the VA Boston Healthcare System, and Victor Alvarez MD, Neuropathologist, VA Boston Healthcare System, conduct the post-mortem study of the brain of former NFL player Aaron Hernandez

Ann McKee, Director of the BU CTE Center and Chief of Neuropathology for the VA Boston Healthcare System, and Victor Alvarez MD, Neuropathologist, VA Boston Healthcare System, conduct the post-mortem study of the brain of former NFL player Aaron Hernandez

Hernandez (pictured in November 2011 during his first season) was regarded as one of the NFL's top tight ends. He landed a $40 million contract with the New England Patriots in 2012Hernandez (pictured in November 2011 during his first season) was regarded as one of the NFL's top tight ends. He landed a $40 million contract with the New England Patriots in 2012

Hernandez (pictured in November 2011 during his first season) was regarded as one of the NFL's top tight ends. He landed a $40 million contract with the New England Patriots in 2012

Dr McKee told the conference that the only other brains they have studied with this level of damage were at least 20 years older than Hernandez.

'In this age group, he's clearly at the severe end of the spectrum,' McKee said.

'There is a concern that we're seeing accelerated disease in young athletes. Whether or not that's because they're playing more aggressively or if they're starting at younger ages, we don't know. But we are seeing ravages of this disease, in this specific example, of a young person.'

Hernandez was diagnosed with stage three out of four, with four being the most severe.

His brain scans reveal huge clumps of tau protein in Hernandez's frontal lobes, and in the nerve cells around small blood vessels, a unique feature of CTE.

These proteins, also seen in dementia, disrupts the normal functioning of the brain, triggering aggressiveness, explosiveness, impulsivity, depression, memory loss and other cognitive changes.

Boston's ongoing investigation into football-linked brain injury is studying hundreds of former players' brains, including Aaron Hernandez, Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, and Andre Waters – all of whom committed suicide and had CTE.

Seau and Duerson both shot themselves in the chest with the expressed intention of donating their brains to scientists to examine them for disease.

As expected, tests subsequently showed that both men and Waters, who were all over the age of 40, had CTE. Hernandez, however, was in his mid-20s – with a far more severe pathology.

A close-up look at Hernandez's brain and the severe damage to itA close-up look at Hernandez's brain and the severe damage to it

A close-up look at Hernandez's brain and the severe damage to it

Pieces of Aaron Hernandez's brain in the Boston University labPieces of Aaron Hernandez's brain in the Boston University lab

Pieces of Aaron Hernandez's brain in the Boston University lab

This is Hernandez's brain scan: It shows the classic features of CTE. There is severe deposition of tau protein in the frontal lobes of the brain (top row). The bottom row shows microscopic deposition of tau protein in nerve cells around small blood vessels, a unique feature of CTEThis is Hernandez's brain scan: It shows the classic features of CTE. There is severe deposition of tau protein in the frontal lobes of the brain (top row). The bottom row shows microscopic deposition of tau protein in nerve cells around small blood vessels, a unique feature of CTE

This is Hernandez's brain scan: It shows the classic features of CTE. There is severe deposition of tau protein in the frontal lobes of the brain (top row). The bottom row shows microscopic deposition of tau protein in nerve cells around small blood vessels, a unique feature of CTE

Dr McKee cautioned that she has not received many brains of players so young who played to such a high level as Aaron Hernandez, who started playing before the age of eight and was regarded as one of the NFL's top tight ends.

The tests showed Hernandez had early brain atrophy and large perforations in the septum pellucidum, a central membrane which is essential to control behavior.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease that is caused by repeated hits to the head.

Over time, these hard impacts result in confusion, depression, dementia, explosiveness, aggression, and suicidal thoughts.

Researchers are still unclear on how CTE affects behavior, but a growing swell of studies is offering some answers.

  • CTE sufferers have clumps of tau protein built up in the frontal lobe, which controls emotional expression and judgment (similar to dementia)
  • This interrupts normal functioning and blood flow in the brain, disrupting and killing nerve cells
  • By stage 3 – i.e. Hernandez's stage – the tau deposits expand from the frontal lobe (at the top) to the temporal lobe (on the sides). This affects the amygdala and the hippocampus, which controls emotion and memory

The disgraced star had a $41 million NFL contract when he was arrested at his home in June 2013 and charged with the murder of a semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.

Lloyd was the boyfriend of Hernandez's fiancee's sister. He was found dead in an industrial park on June 17, 2013, riddled with bullets. Surveillance footage showed Hernandez at the scene an hour before, then arriving at home minutes after gunshots were fired.

In April 2015, Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison.

While in prison, Hernandez was charged with another killing – a double murder committed by a drive-by shooting. But in April this year, he was acquitted of both charges.

The next day, he took his own life.

His family has since filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the Patriots on behalf of Hernandez's four-year-old daughter Avielle, claiming the club and the league knew about the connections between football and CTE long before Hernandez was drafted.

From golden boy to convict: The tragic story of Aaron Hernandez

Aaron Hernandez was born into a sports dynasty, and he was a star.

Growing up in Bristol, Connecticut, he excelled in football, basketball, and sprint running.

But his idyllic childhood took a turn at the age of 16 in 2006 when his father, a coach who was his inspiration and best friend, died during a routine hernia surgery.

Hernandez left high school in January 2007 to join the University of Florida Gators.

Within months, he was involved in a fight, sucker-punching a restaurant manager. The police report said he ruptured the man's eardrum.

He was also suspended for marijuana.

And in his sophomore year, he was named in a police report about a club shooting, naming him as one of a few Gator players which triggered the argument.

But despite his run-ins with the law, he was incredibly skilled.

Hernandez smiles from the sidelines in the fourth quarter during a game against the Houston Texans in December 10, 2012, shortly after landing his $40 million contractHernandez smiles from the sidelines in the fourth quarter during a game against the Houston Texans in December 10, 2012, shortly after landing his $40 million contract

Hernandez smiles from the sidelines in the fourth quarter during a game against the Houston Texans in December 10, 2012, shortly after landing his $40 million contract

It meant he was able to skip his senior year to go pro in 2010.

He was expected to be the first pick. Ultimately, he was left until the fourth pick, selected by the Patriots. It has since emerged that Hernandez had written a personal letter to the team asking them to draft him – a factor which was likely significant.

And they weren't disappointed. In 2012, he landed a $40 million contract for his third season.

But he didn't see that season through.

In June 2013, Hernandez was arrested and charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd, the boyfriend of his fiancee's sister.

Lloyd was a semi-pro football player. He was found dead in a park on June 17, 2013, with bullet wounds.

Indicted: Hernandez is escorted into the courtroom of the Attleboro District Court for his hearing on August 22, 2013 in North Attleboro, MassachusettsIndicted: Hernandez is escorted into the courtroom of the Attleboro District Court for his hearing on August 22, 2013 in North Attleboro, Massachusetts

Indicted: Hernandez is escorted into the courtroom of the Attleboro District Court for his hearing on August 22, 2013 in North Attleboro, Massachusetts

On June 28, Hernandez was detained, with an arrest warrant that said he was seen with Lloyd at 2.30am on the day of his murder. Gunshots were heard at around 3.25am, and at 3.29am, surveillance footage showed Hernandez arriving home in his car, which was five minutes from the crime scene.

In April 2015, Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison.

While in prison, Hernandez was charged with another killing – a double murder committed by a drive-by shooting. But in April this year, he was acquitted of both charges.

The next day, he took his own life, and penned three suicide notes, including one to his fiancee Shayanna Jenkins.

They were discovered in the cell were Aaron Hernandez hanged himself, leading investigators to officially declare his death a suicide.

The notes were discovered next to a Bible opened to John 3:16, the same verse that Hernandez had written across his forehead in marker.

That verse reads: 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.'

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Australia

Sydney seaplane crash: Exhaust fumes affected pilot, report confirms

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The pilot of a seaplane that crashed into an Australian river, killing all on board, had been left confused and disorientated by leaking exhaust fumes, investigators have confirmed.

The Canadian pilot and five members of a British family died in the crash north of Sydney in December 2017.

All were found to have higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, a final report has found.

It recommended the mandatory fitting of gas detectors in all such planes.

British businessman Richard Cousins, 58, died alongside his 48-year-old fiancée, magazine editor Emma Bowden, her 11-year-old daughter Heather and his sons, Edward, 23, and William, 25, and pilot Gareth Morgan, 44. Mr Cousins was the chief executive of catering giant Compass.

The family had been on a sightseeing flight in the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane when it nose-dived into the Hawkesbury River at Jerusalem Bay, about 50km (30 miles) from the city centre.

The final report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed the findings of an interim report published in 2020.

It said pre-existing cracks in the exhaust collector ring were believed to have released exhaust gas into the engine bay. Holes left by missing bolts in a firewall then allowed the fumes to enter the cabin.

“As a result, the pilot would have almost certainly experienced effects such as confusion, visual disturbance and disorientation,” the report said.

“Consequently, it was likely that this significantly degraded the pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.”

The ATSB recommended the Civil Aviation Safety Authority consider mandating the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors in piston-engine aircraft that carry passengers.

It previously issued safety advisory notices to owners and operators of such aircraft that they install detectors “with an active warning” to pilots”. Operators and maintainers of planes were also advised to carry out detailed inspections of exhaust systems and firewalls.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55862128

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Australia

Australia unlikely to fully reopen border in 2021, says top official

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Australia is unlikely to fully open its borders in 2021 even if most of its population gets vaccinated this year as planned, says a senior health official.

The comments dampen hopes raised by airlines that travel to and from the country could resume as early as July.

Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy made the prediction after being asked about the coronavirus’ escalation in other nations.

Dr Murphy spearheaded Australia’s early action to close its borders last March.

“I think that we’ll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.

“Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus,” he said, adding that he believed quarantine requirements for travellers would continue “for some time”.

Citizens, permanent residents and those with exemptions are allowed to enter Australia if they complete a 14-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.

Qantas – Australia’s national carrier – reopened bookings earlier this month, after saying it expected international travel to “begin to restart from July 2021.”

However, it added this depended on the Australian government’s deciding to reopen borders.

Australia’s tight restrictions

The country opened a travel bubble with neighbouring New Zealand late last year, but currently it only operates one-way with inbound flights to Australia.

Australia has also discussed the option of travel bubbles with other low-risk places such as Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.

A vaccination scheme is due to begin in Australia in late February. Local authorities have resisted calls to speed up the process, giving more time for regulatory approvals.

Australia has so far reported 909 deaths and about 22,000 cases, far fewer than many nations. It reported zero locally transmitted infections on Monday.

Experts have attributed much of Australia’s success to its swift border lockdown – which affected travellers from China as early as February – and a hotel quarantine system for people entering the country.

Local outbreaks have been caused by hotel quarantine breaches, including a second wave in Melbourne. The city’s residents endured a stringent four-month lockdown last year to successfully suppress the virus.

Other outbreaks – including one in Sydney which has infected about 200 people – prompted internal border closures between states, and other restrictions around Christmas time.

The state of Victoria said on Monday it would again allow entry to Sydney residents outside of designated “hotspots”, following a decline in cases.

While the measures have been praised, many have also criticised them for separating families across state borders and damaging businesses.

Dr Murphy said overall Australia’s virus response had been “pretty good” but he believed the nation could have introduced face masks earlier and improved its protections in aged care homes.

In recent days, Australia has granted entry to about 1,200 tennis players, staff and officials for the Australian Open. The contingent – which has recorded at least nine infections – is under quarantine.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55699581

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Australia

Covid: Brisbane to enter three-day lockdown over single infection

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The Australian city of Brisbane has begun a snap three-day lockdown after a cleaner in its hotel quarantine system became infected with coronavirus.

Health officials said the cleaner had the highly transmissible UK variant and they were afraid it could spread.

Brisbane has seen very few cases of the virus beyond quarantined travellers since Australia’s first wave last year.

It is the first known instance of this variant entering the Australian community outside of hotel quarantine.

The lockdown is for five populous council areas in Queensland’s state capital.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the measure on Friday morning local time, about 16 hours after the woman tested positive.

Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown aimed to halt the virus as rapidly as possible, adding: “Doing three days now could avoid doing 30 days in the future.”

“I think everybody in Queensland… knows what we are seeing in the UK and other places around the world is high rates of infection from this particular strain,” she said.

“And we do not want to see that happening here in our great state.”

Australia has reported 28,500 coronavirus infections and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. By contrast, the US, which is the hardest-hit country, has recorded more than 21 million infections while nearly 362,000 people have died of the disease.The lockdown will begin at 18:00 on Friday (08:00 GMT) in the Brisbane city, Logan and the Ipswich, Moreton and Redlands local government areas.

Residents will only be allowed to leave home for certain reasons, such as buying essential items and seeking medical care.

For the first time, residents in those areas will also be required to wear masks outside of their homes.

Australia has faced sporadic outbreaks over the past year, with the most severe one in Melbourne triggering a lockdown for almost four months.

A pre-Christmas outbreak in Sydney caused fresh alarm, but aggressive testing and contact-tracing has kept infection numbers low. The city recorded four local cases on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has pledged to start mass vaccinations in February instead of March as was planned.

Lockdown interrupts ‘near normal’ life in Brisbane

Simon Atkinson, BBC News in Brisbane

At 8:00 today I popped to the local supermarket for some bread, milk – and because it’s summer here – a mango. I was pretty much the only customer.

When I went past the same shop a couple of hours later it was a different story – 50 people standing in the drizzle – queuing to get inside as others emerged with bulging shopping bags. “Heaps busier than Christmas,” a cheery trolley attendant told me. “It’s off the scale”.

Despite the “don’t panic” messages from authorities, pictures on social media show it’s a pattern being repeated across the city.

While shutdowns are common around the world, the tough and sudden stay-at-home order for Brisbane has caught people on the hop here after months of near normality.

But while such a rapid, hard lockdown off the back of just a single case of Covid-19 will seem crazy in some parts of the world, I’ve not come across too many people complaining.

And I don’t think that’s just because Aussies love to follow a rule. This is the first time the UK variant of the virus has been detected in the community in Australia.

And nobody here wants Brisbane to go through what Melbourne suffered last year. Even if it means going without mangoes.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55582836

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