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for learning about the effects of brain trauma
Traumatic brain injury is sudden physical damage to the brain.
The head forcefully hitting an object, a closed head injury, may
cause the damage or by something passing through the skull and piercing
the brain, like a gunshot wound, penetrating head injury. The major
cause of traumatic brain injury is from motor vehicle accidents.
Other causes include falls, sports injuries, violent crimes, and
Brain Trauma Symptoms
Traumatic brain injuries can affect a person cognitively, physically
Cognitive symptoms may include:
- short term memory loss and/or long term memory loss
- slowed ability to process information
- trouble concentrating or paying attention for periods of time
- difficulty keeping up with a conversation;
- other communication difficulties;
- such as word finding problems
- spatial disorientation
- organizational problems and impaired judgment
- unable to do more than one thing at a time
Physical symptoms may include:
- seizures of all types
- muscle spasticity
- double vision or low vision, even blindness
- loss of smell or taste
- speech impairments such as slow or slurred speech
- headaches or migraines
- fatigue, increased need for sleep
- balance problems
What Types of Cognitive and Communication Problems Can Result
From Brain Trauma?
Cognitive and communication problems that result from traumatic
brain injury vary from person to person. These problems depend on
many factors, which include an individual's personality, pre-injury
abilities, and the severity of the brain damage.
The effects of the brain damage are generally greatest immediately
following the injury. However, some effects from traumatic brain
injury may be misleading. The newly injured brain often suffers
temporary damage from swelling and a form of "bruising"
called contusions. These types of damage are usually not permanent
and the functions of those areas of the brain return once the swelling
or bruising goes away. Therefore, it is difficult to predict accurately
the extent of long-term problems in the first weeks following traumatic
Focal damage, however, may result in long-term, permanent difficulties.
Improvements can occur as other areas of the brain learn to take
over the function of the damaged areas. Children's brains are much
more capable of this flexibility than are the brains of adults.
For this reason, children who suffer brain trauma might progress
better than adults with similar damage.
In moderate to severe injuries, the swelling may cause pressure
on a lower part of the brain called the brainstem, which controls
consciousness or wakefulness. Many individuals who suffer these
types of injuries are in an unconscious state called a coma. A person
in a coma may be completely unresponsive to any type of stimulation
such as loud noises, pain, or smells. Others may move, make noise,
or respond to pain but be unaware of their surroundings. These people
are unable to communicate. Some people recover from a coma, becoming
alert and able to communicate.
In conscious individuals, cognitive impairments often include having
problems concentrating for varying periods of time, having trouble
organizing thoughts, and becoming easily confused or forgetful.
Some individuals will experience difficulty learning new information.
Still others will be unable to interpret the actions of others and
therefore have great problems in social situations. For these individuals,
what they say or what they do is often inappropriate for the situation.
Many will experience difficulty solving problems, making decisions,
and planning. Judgment is often affected.
Language problems also vary. Problems often include word-finding
difficulty, poor sentence formation, and lengthy and often faulty
descriptions or explanations. These are to cover for a lack of understanding
or inability to think of a word. Many have difficulty understanding
multiple meanings in jokes, sarcasm, and adages or figurative expressions.
Individuals with traumatic brain injuries are often unaware of their
errors and can become frustrated or angry and place the blame for
communication difficulties on the person to whom they are speaking.
Reading and writing abilities are often worse than those for speaking
and understanding spoken words. Simple and complex mathematical
abilities are often affected.
The speech produced by a person who has traumatic brain injury
may be slow, slurred, and difficult or impossible to understand
if the areas of the brain that control the muscles of the speech
mechanism are damaged. This type of speech problem is called dysarthria.
These individuals may also experience problems swallowing. This
is called dysphagia. Others may have what is called apraxia of speech,
a condition in which strength and coordination of the speech muscles
are unimpaired but the individual experiences difficulty saying
words correctly in a consistent way.
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