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BIAA HOME : LIVING WITH BRAIN INJURY

Living With Brain Injury

Brain injury is unpredictable in its consequences. Brain injury affects who we are, the way we think, act, and feel. It can change everything about us in a matter of seconds. The most important things to remember: 
• A person with a brain injury is a person first
• No two brain injuries are exactly the same
• The effects of a brain injury are complex and vary greatly from person to person
• The effects of a brain injury depend on such factors as cause, location, and severity

If you are having trouble finding information, feel free to contact us either via e-mail, or through our toll free Brain Injury Information Center at 1-800-444-6443. You are not alone.

Brain Anatomy showing the location of major areas of the brain

 

2.4 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Injury Prevention, the leading causes of TBI are:
• Falls (35.2%)
• Motor vehicle-traffic crashes (17.3%)
• Struck by/against events (16.5%)
• Assaults (10%)

A Healthy Brain
To understand what happens when the brain is injured, it is important to realize what a healthy brain is made of and what it does. The brain is enclosed inside the skull. The skull acts as a protective covering for the soft brain. The brain is made of neurons (nerve cells). The neurons form tracts that route throughout the brain. These nerve tracts carry messages to various parts of the brain. The brain uses these messages to perform functions. The functions include our coordinating our body’s systems, such as breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and metabolism; thought processing; body movements; personality; behavior; and the senses, such as vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Each part of the brain serves a specific function and links with other parts of the brain to form more complex functions.  All parts of the brain need to be working well in order for the brain to work well.  Even "minor" or "mild" injuries to the brain can significantly disrupt the brain's ability to function.

An Injured Brain
When a brain injury occurs, the functions of the neurons, nerve tracts, or sections of the brain can be affected. If the neurons and nerve tracts are affected, they can be unable or have difficulty carrying the messages that tell the brain what to do. This can change the way a person thinks, acts, feels, and moves the body. Brain injury can also change the complex internal functions of the body, such as regulating body temperature; blood pressure; bowel and bladder control. These changes can be temporary or permanent. They may cause impairment or a complete inability to perform a function.

Functions of the Brain

The brain is divided into main functional sections, called lobes. These sections or brain lobes are called the Frontal Lobe, Temporal Lobe, Parietal Lobe, Occipital Lobe, the Cerebellum, and the Brain Stem. Each has a specific function as described below. 

Parietal Lobe Functions

  • Sense of touch
  • Spatial perception
  • Differentiation (identification) of size, shapes, and colors
  • Visual perception 

Occipital Lobe Functions

  • Vision

Cerebellum Lobe Functions

  • Balance
  • Skilled motor activity 
  • Coordination
  • Visual perception 

Brain Stem Functions

  • Breathing
  • Arousal and consciousness
  • Attention and concentration 
  • Heart rate
  • Sleep and wake cycles 

Frontal Lobe Functions

  • Attention and concentration
  • Self-monitoring
  • Organization
  • Speaking (expressive language)
  • Motor planning and initiation
  • Awareness of abilities and limitations
  • Personality
  • Mental flexibility
  • Inhibition of behavior
  • Emotions
  • Problem solving 
  • Planning and anticipation
  • Judgment  

Temporal Lobe Functions

  • Memory
  • Understanding language (receptive language)
  • Sequencing 
  • Hearing
  • Organization  

Right or Left Brain

The functional sections or lobes of the brain are also divided into right and left sides. The right side and the left side of the brain are responsible for different functions. General patterns of dysfunction can occur if an injury is on the right or left side of the brain.  

Injuries of the left side of the brain can cause:

  • Difficulties in understanding language (receptive language)
  • Difficulties in speaking or verbal output (expressive language)
  • Catastrophic reactions (depression, anxiety)
  • Verbal memory deficits
  • Impaired logic
  • Sequencing difficulties
  • Decreased control over right-sided body movements

Injuries of the right side of the brain can cause:

  • Visual-spatial impairment
  • Visual memory deficits
  • Left neglect (inattention to the left side of the body)
  • Decreased awareness of deficits
  • Altered creativity and music perception
  • Loss of “the big picture” type of thinking
  • Decreased control over left-sided body movements

Diffuse Brain Injury (The injuries are scattered throughout both sides of the brain) can cause:

  • Reduced thinking speed
  • Confusion
  • Reduced attention and concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired cognitive (thinking) skills in all areas

Finding More Information

If you are having trouble finding information, feel free to contact us either via e-mail, or through our toll free Brain Injury Information Center at 1-800-444-6443. You are not alone.

Content provided by Nucleus Medical Media:

Information last reviewed for accuracy October 12, 2012.

 
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BRAIN INJURY ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
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