Skip to Content
Alumni profile

Daniel H. Daneshvar ’05

Neuroscientist helps lead conversation on CTE in sports.
April 25, 2018
Courtesy of Daniel H. Daneshvar ’05

In 2009, Daniel ­Daneshvar was studying neurodegenerative diseases at the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Boston University when a 6'8" man walked in and altered the course of his work. The man was Chris Nowinski, a former defensive tackle at Harvard University. Also known as WWE wrestler Chris Harvard, Nowinski had recently retired because of concussions.

“He was bouncing around from doctor to doctor,” says Daneshvar. “Everyone told him that his issues were psychological, because there wasn’t much understanding about the relationship between his symptoms [of cognitive impairment] and concussions. I realized how little we understood about what happens to the brain after repeated hits to the head.” So Daneshvar shifted his research focus from Alzheimer’s to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Daneshvar was a coauthor on a major study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2017, which found that among deceased NFL players’ brains donated by their families, 99 percent had CTE.

The response to this study has been game-changing for athletes from grade school to the top echelons of professional sports. But for Daneshvar, the findings mark a milestone. In 2009, he began to observe links between brain trauma and symptoms of CTEsuch as depression, memory loss, aggression, dementia, and cognitive, behavioral, and motor impairment. So he and his BU colleagues focused on the pathologic diagnosis of the disease, which meant getting brain samples from the families of deceased athletes. He hopes his work will lead to improved diagnosis and treatment of brain diseases.

Today, he is a resident at the Stanford University School of Medicine and helps run the largest CTE brain bank in the world, with more than 500 samples. Daneshvar says they are close to diagnosis in a living brain using technologies like PET scans, which would provide opportunities for clinical trials and insights on treating and curing the disease. (See “Looking concussion in the eye,” page 22, for another approach to diagnosis of brain injuries.)

As Daneshvar began researching CTE, he also started the first scientifically validated concussion education program for kids, Team Up Against Concussions, which has taught more than 25,000 student-athletes nationwide about the risks of repeated head injuries. 

Recent research indicates that CTE isn’t only a concern for athletes but can affect other populations, such as victims of domestic violence and military veterans. “It includes hits that weren’t even bad enough to cause concussions,” says Daneshvar. 

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.