What Is Tau and Its Role in Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy?

Tau is a microtubule-associated protein. It lines up on the inside of the nerve cell and stabilizes the nerve cell. It's important for regulating the nerve cell. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is a neurodegenerative disorder, so it's a disease where the brain starts to deteriorate, and as it deteriorates it builds up huge amounts of this protein in the form of what's called neurofibrillary tangle. So they're inclusions inside nerve cells, and they look sort of like skeins of yarn or like tangles. That's why their name is that. In CTE, you see tangles, these tau-containing tangles, in a very unique pattern throughout the brain. There are other diseases that have tau protein, like Alzheimer's disease, or even some other diseases, but not in this pattern. This is a very unique and distinctive pattern.

Tau protein shows up in the brain in other neurodegenerative diseases, but only in this unique, tangled pattern in CTE.

See all videos interviews with Dr. Ann McKee.

Ann McKee

Ann McKee, MD is the chief neuropathologist for the Framingham Heart Study and the Boston University-based Centenarian Study. She is also the chief neuropathologist for the Boston-based Veterans Administration Medical Centers and for the Sports Legacy Institute.

Posted on BrainLine December 10, 2010

Produced by Noel Gunther and Brian King, BrainLine.


U r right that there r no studies involving women. I also want to donate my brain. I will wait with u for the answer.

I am a 62 yr old female! I have had more than 10 but less than 20 concussions in my life so far - it makes me wonder why only male NFL Players are being studied!

I would like to donate my Brain (only) to be studied I die! I have daily migraines, insomnia, and some anger mngmnt issues!

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