About the BrainThe brain is one of the largest and most complex organs in the human body. It is made up of more than 100,000,000,000 nerves that communicate in trillions of connections called synapses.
The brain is made up of many specialized areas that work together in order to function:
• The cortex is the outermost layer of brain cells. Thinking and voluntary movements begin in the cortex.
• Basic functions like breathing and sleep are controlled in the brain stem which is between the spinal cord and the rest of the brain.
• There are a cluster of structures in the center of the brain called the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia coordinate messages between different areas of the brain.
• The cerebellum is responsible for coordination and balance and is located at the base and the back of the brain.
The brain is also divided into several lobes:
• The frontal lobes are responsible for problem solving and judgment and motor function.
• The parietal lobes manage sensation, handwriting, and body position.
• The temporal lobes are involved with memory and hearing.
• The occipital lobes contain the brain's visual processing system.
The skull (cranium) helps protect the brain from injury.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)For something as complicated as Traumatic Brain Injury it can be very difficult to find the right words in order to be able to explain it in a meaningful and understandable way. Even a mild TBI can result in any one or more of:-
- Memory problems
- Concentration problems
- Reduced problem solving capabilities
- Reduced alertness
- Task initiation problems
- The inability to switch from one thought to another
Asking someone who has no difficulties in any of these areas to try to imagine how any of these problems might impact on someone's normal daily life is an almost impossible task unless one can provide solid examples.
Of course, anyone suffering the after effects of such an injury understands those difficulties only too well. Or do they ?
For people who have only recently been injured the changes which they are experiencing can be confusing and bewildering. They can wonder what is happening to them and struggle just to get a handle on their "new self".
With that in mind these videos from YouTube may be of some use. How better to try to understand something than to hear someone else's first hand account of their own experiences?
This first set of videos is an honest, enlightening story from John Byler detailing his experiences in six parts (with some humourous touches), although the volume could do with being turned up a little.
"You Look Great!" : Inside a Traumatic Brain Injury [1 of 6] [9:52]
"You Look Great!" : Inside a Traumatic Brain Injury [2 of 6] [7:51]
"You Look Great!" : Inside a Traumatic Brain Injury [3 of 6] [9:41]
"You Look Great!" : Inside a Traumatic Brain Injury [4 of 6] [9:47]
"You Look Great!" : Inside a Traumatic Brain Injury [5 of 6] [7:43]
"You Look Great!" : Inside a Traumatic Brain Injury [6 of 6] [10:23]
For more information regarding brain injuries, please visit www.headway.org.uk
EffectsBrain Injury effects everybody differently. The more severe the brain injury, the more pronounced the long-term effects are likely to be. Survivors of more severe brain injury are likely to have complex long-term problems affecting their personality, their relationships and their ability to lead an independent life. Even with good rehabilitation, support and help in the community, survivors and their families are likely to face uncertain and challenging futures. The following information was taken from www.headway.org.uk. Visit their site for more information regarding the effects of brain injuries.
- Memory problems are common after brain injury. Particularly short-term. This may affect the ability to learn new things. Faces and names are also common things that individuals who have had a brain injury may forget. Memory loss can be distressing for the person affected, and their family.
- Loss of visual acuity and inability of the person to see objects as clearly may happen after brain injuries. Visual distortion or distortion of images an visual perceptual difficulties or difficulties of perception may also be apparent.
- Individuals may experience a loss of concentration span and this is very common. Many people may even abandon tasks before completing them as is the nature of this lack of concentration. Individuals may start of eagerly but lose motivation and concentration fast.
- Impaired empathy can cause difficulties in judging one’s own and other people’s behaviour and feelings. It becomes to difficult to ‘be in someone else’s shoes’. The person may also have an unrealistic view of themselves and others, and may not appreciate that they have certain problems. This may lead to unattainable goals being set, which then leads to failure and frustration.
Impairments in Visual Perception
Reduced Concentration Span and Motivation
Difficulty With Empathy and Reasoning
- Mobility can be affected following brain injury. Movement can become very slow and balance can be affected. Indeed, having a brain injury can sometimes feel like ‘living life in the slow lane’. Some people may need a wheelchair or other mobility aids, because their poor balance and co-ordination means they cannot walk without support. The fact that they use a wheelchair does not necessarily mean that the person cannot stand or walk for short distances.
- Weakness or paralysis often affects one side of the body more than the other. This is known as ‘hemiplegia’ and is particularly common after a stroke. This could mean that help is needed during personal care and when getting dressed or undressed. Muscle weakness may affect continence, and continence aids may be needed.
- Excessive tiredness is common to all severities of brain injury, including mild injuries. Tasks that we take for granted, such as getting dressed or walking around can require much more effort after brain injury. It is important to allow for rest periods at regular intervals during the day, and not to feel that everything has to be done at once.
- Sensation of touch on the skin may be reduced, lost or exaggerated. It may also be difficult for the person to know where their limbs are positioned without looking at them. Eyesight may be affected, and this may not be correctable with glasses. Odd postures or walking patterns may also be explained by sensory impairments. Taste or sense of smell may be impaired or lost, either in the short or long term.
- Slow, indistinct or rapid speech is common after a brain injury. It may be hard to understand the person’s speech at first, but the listener may learn to ‘tune in’. Some people may lose the ability to speak altogether. Remember, their inability to express themselves does not mean that they have lost their intelligence.
- Brain injury can make some people prone to epileptic seizures or ‘fits’. Many people who have had a seizure after a brain injury are given a drug for a number of years to reduce the chance of it recurring. The drug may have an overall ‘dampening’ effect on the person’s level of arousal, and therefore on the performance of everyday tasks. Remember the added effect that this could have if the person already has excessive fatigue.
Weakness or Paralysis
Impairments of Senses
Emotional and Behaviour
- For many families, the worst consequence of brain injury is feeling as if the person who was once known and loved has somehow slipped away, together with their character and their individual ways. For the person with a brain injury, losing a sense of their own identity is traumatic and frightening.
For this reason, experiencing brain injury can be similar to going through bereavement: the healing process is made up of grief, denial, anger, acceptance, and finally, resolution. However, this process can take many years to run its course, and the feelings experienced may not present in any particular order.
Sometimes the impact of brain injury means that the individual remains unaware of what has happened to them and how they have been affected. If they are free from physical effects, other people may also fail to appreciate the ‘hidden disability’, such as the cognitive or personality changes that have taken place. This can leave both brain injury survivors and their families feeling very isolated.
It can be particularly difficult if the person with brain injury has children. While children are often surprisingly able to come to terms with changes in their lives, they may not be able to fully understand what has happened to their mum or dad and why they are different from before.
- Depression and sense of loss are common. Depression may be caused by damage to the brain’s emotional control regions, but can also be associated with the person gaining an insight into the effects of their own injury
After a serious accident or illness, many things that are precious to the individual may be lost forever. There may be much sadness, anger, guilt and confusion, surrounding this. There may be lost skills such as cooking, writing or sport; lost independence (getting dressed, going shopping, driving); lost lifestyle (friends move on and no longer include the injured person in their plans); lost career (most severe brain injury survivors are unable to go back to work); lost companionship (many brain injured people say that they feel very lonely).
- The person may have a tendency to laugh or cry very easily, and to move from one emotional state to another quite suddenly.
Frustration can build up quickly, especially when things that were once so easy are now difficult or impossible. The resulting anger may be very difficult for the person to control.
Anxiety can be another consequence of brain injury. Life has been changed forever, and the future can look frightening. Anxiety can quickly lead to frustration and anger and needs to be identified and alleviated as early as possible.
Statistics About Brain Injuries
- Each year an estimated 1 million people attend hospital A&E in the UK following head injury. Many more head injuries go unreported and are not assessed by medical professionals.
- Of these, around 135,000 people are admitted to hospital each year as a consequence of brain injury.
- It is estimated that across the UK there are around 500,000 people (aged 16 - 74) living with long term disabilities as a result of traumatic brain injury.
- Approximately 85% of traumatic brain injuries are classified as minor, 10% as moderate and 5% as severe.
- Approximately half of deaths in people under 40 are due to traumatic brain injury
- Men are two to three times more likely to have a traumatic brain injury than women. This increases to five times more likely in the 15-29 age range
- Life expectancy for brain injury survivors is normal, so over time, what may seem like a low volume problem becomes a high volume one