New research could aid in brain injury recovery

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New research on the ways that traumatic brain injuries progress over time may help experts find new ways to combat the potentially devastating long-term consequences that these injuries can have. Experts hope the research will offer doctors new ways of stopping brain injuries in their tracks and giving patients a better chance of maximum recovery.

Traumatic brain injury basics

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is a type of injury that occurs when an impact, jolt or blow to the head causes the brain to strike against the inside of the skull, resulting in a disruption of the brain’s normal functioning. Although TBI can occur in a wide range of circumstances, some of the most common causes of TBI include traffic collisions, sporting accidents and physical assault.

Many TBIs are relatively mild and clear up on their own without any obvious long-term consequences, but recent research suggests that even seemingly minor head injuries can have subtle but long-lasting effects on a person’s health and cognitive functioning.

In cases involving moderate to severe TBI, the consequences may be more easily apparent, and may include:

  • Decreased cognitive function.
  • Memory problems.
  • Language difficulties.
  • Loss of sensation or motor control.
  • Emotional disturbances.
  • Personality changes.

When multiple TBIs occur over within a relatively short period of time, the effects can be catastrophic or even deadly – even if the individual injuries appear mild.

Stopping TBI in its tracks

A growing body of evidence suggests that the damage caused by traumatic brain injury does not occur all at once, but rather that it involves an ongoing process of cascading negative effects. By interrupting the process and taking steps to counteract it, some experts believe it may be possible to substantially reduce the long-term damage caused by traumatic brain injuries.

In one such study, a research team led by Dr. Robin Green at Toronto Rehab is studying impediments to recovery among TBI patients and methods of overcoming those impediments.

The team’s research suggests that some of the damage resulting from TBI may occur when damaged brain tissue causes healthy areas of the brain to become isolated or cut off by damaged tissues. When healthy regions of the brain are disconnected in this way, they may deteriorate as a result of under-stimulation. By deliberately stimulating those areas of the brain, researchers found, it may be possible to offset the deterioration and prevent further damage to the brain after an initial TBI.

Environmental enrichment may aid TBI recovery

For the Toronto Rehab study, researchers worked with 25 patients who had sustained moderate-severe brain injuries. Among study participants, those who reported higher levels of “environmental enrichment” – in the form of increased physical, cognitive and social stimulation – showed less deterioration of the hippocampus in the months and years following their injuries. These findings suggest that activities such as socializing, reading and problem solving may help improve recovery after TBI and reduce chronic symptoms such as memory loss.

Compensation for TBI

People who suffer traumatic brain injuries often face months or years of intensive therapy and medical treatment on the long road to recovery. Depending on the circumstances of the injury, it is often possible for injured people and their families to secure financial compensation to help them cope with the consequences of the injury and secure the best possible chance of recovery. If you or a loved one has suffered a TBI, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your options.

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