BOSTON (WHDH) - A big breakthrough in brain research could be coming thanks to a team of scientists at Boston University’s School of Medicine.

BU’s associate professor of neurology, Dr. Jesse Mez has been studying CTE, or chronic traumatic encepalthopy — a neuro-degenerative disease that typically presents in people with repeated blows to the head.

It is often found to be present in people who have served in the military or athletes who competed in contact sports.

“This is a disease that right now, can only be diagnosed after death,” he explained.

In 2017, researchers with the CTE Center at Boston University announced that former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez had a severe case of the brain disease.

“They tend to have cognitive symptoms, like memory symptoms, problems with problem-solving. As well as mood and behavior symptoms, like a short fuse or depression,” Mex explained.

With 1,000 donated brains in the brain bank, Mez said his team has been able to make significant headway in their research.

“That really gives us a unique opportunity to discover this disease and I think that is why we have made all the discoveries that we have,” he said.

Over the last few years, BU researchers have been reviewing MRIs taken from people who suffered from the debilitating disease and found similarities among the patients.

Shrinkage was spotted in the lobes of the brain that are important for cognition and memory plus a commonly-found separation in the center of the brain.

The BU researchers hope to one day use the MRIs in conjunction with other tests to diagnose CTE in a living person. Mez says some patients are already being studied.

“We’re following them longitudinally. We are carefully characterizing them, and we think it will provide information that we can use to more definitely diagnose CTE in the near future,” he said.

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