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Associated with repeated head trauma, CTE causes neurological decay, has no known treatment and can be diagnosed only at autopsy.It is linked to memory loss, personality changes, depression, impulsivity, dementia and suicide.

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Although Jennifer had held out hope for any other explanation, she also knew the moment she read it what the text meant.

For months, she’d watched Dave disintegrate into a man she hardly knew.

She’d tried everything, but nothing had alleviated his severe insomnia, intense anxiety and worsening cognitive problems.“I was so frustrated that I couldn’t find the answers he needed,” she remembers.

It was out of that frustration, she says, that the idea came to donate his brain to research.

She was still answering a detective’s questions in her living room that night when she blurted it out: Tell the medical examiner to do whatever is needed to preserve Dave’s brain.

She hoped the decision might help others struggling with what everyone believed explained Dave’s afflictions – traumatic brain injury and PTSD, the most common wounds of the post-9/11 wars.“That’s what he’d been diagnosed with,” Jennifer says.

“I had no reason to think there was anything else to find.”In June, three months after Dave died, a letter came from the doctor who examined his brain. What had caused Dave’s unraveling was chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease best known for affecting former professional football players.

Jennifer Collins becomes emotional as she sits on her husband's side of the bed at her Virginia Beach home on April 25, 2016. flag that once covered the casket of her late husband, Dave Collins, a retired SEAL who is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Dave Collins, a former SEAL, killed himself in March 2014. The flag is from his burial in Arlington National Cemetery. She donated Dave's brain for research after he killed himself in March 2014, and she learned that summer that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease best known for affecting former professional football players.

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