Traumatic Brain Injuries

What is traumatic brain injury?

Traumatic brain injury is a head injury caused by any sudden physical damage to the brain. This usually occurs as a result of a sudden forceful blow to the head that can be caused by either the head hitting a nonmoving object such as the steering wheel of a car; a moving object hitting the head, such as would be seen in a violent assault; or something passing through the skull and piercing the brain. According to the National Institute of Health, the major cause oftraumatic head injury in the United States is motor vehicle accidents.

Sudden Impact Causes Brain Damage

The most recognized cause of a head injury resulting from an accident is the skull's sudden, if not immediate deceleration as a result of striking a blunt object such as a steering wheel, dashboard or even air bag. When the skull’s momentum is stopped, the brain’s momentum within the skull does not automatically stop at the same time. The brain can be compared with a piece of jello within a container. While the container may stop, the jello within carries the momentum and squishes against the hard walls of the container. This is precisely what happens with the brain in a closed head injury. While the skull’s momentum stops in an instance, the brain, a much softer and malleable organ, continues to carry momentum and is squished or pressed against the hard skull. This can then lead to one or more of three separate processes that work to injury the brain: bruising, tearing and/or swelling.

Mechanism of a Traumatic Brain Injury

There are two types of brain injuries. “Closed head injury” and “open head injury”. These two types of injuries almost define themselves.

Closed Head Injury

“Closed head injury” means that the skull is not fractured. These injuries can be more difficult to recognize and understand because of the relatively benign appearance of the injured body part. However, due to that fact, closed head injuries can at times be more dangerous as they are not readily recognized, and because there is no fracture to the skull, swelling and bleeding of the brain creates pressure and additional damage to brain tissue.

Open Head Injury

“Open head injury” means that the skull has been fractured. Obviously, this can cause severe injury but there are also times where the fracturing of the skull may work to alleviate built up pressure caused by bleeding and swelling which can in turn minimize the long term brain damage.

An Anatomy of the Brain

To view an image of the anatomy of the brain and its labeled parts, select the option below:

Anatomy of the Brain

Taumatic Brain Injury

The damage resulting from a traumatic brain injury depends upon the area of the brain that is damage.  Many traumatic brain injuries are caused by what is commonly referred to as “focal damage” which only affects a small portion of the brain where the specific point of impact occurred.  In other situations “diffuse” brain injuries can result when the traumatic impact causes the brain to move back and forth within the skull causing damage to larger areas and multiple regions of the brain.

Hemispheres of the Brain

The brain is generally divided into two “hemispheres”: the “right hemisphere” and the “left hemisphere”.  The right hemisphere is associated with relationship tasks and spatial abilities and controls the left side of the body.  The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body and is associated with the production and understanding of language, and logic. [See Brain Anatomy, Brain Injury Symptoms]

Parts of the Brain: Forebrain, Midbrain, Hindbrain

Specifically, the brain is made up of three main parts: the forebrain (consisting of the cerebrum, thalamus and hypothalamus), midbrain or brain stem (consisting of the tectum and tegmentum) and hindbrain (consisting of the cerebellum, pons and medulla).  The cerebrum is the larges part of the human brain and is divided into four sections referred to as “lobes”. 

Brain Lobes

They are the frontal lope, parietal lobe, occipital lobe and temporal lobe. Each lobe is associated with different functions of the human body.

Frontal Lobe:  Planning, speech, reasoning, emotions, judgment, intellect, creative thought, and coordination of movement, sexual urges, problem solving and abstract thinking.

Parietal Lobe: Orientation, perception of stimuli, movement, and orientation.

Occipital Lobe: Vision and reading.

Temporal Lobe: Memory, hearing, fear, some emotions, visual memories, auditory memories, and speech.

Little Brain

The cerebellum is another crucial piece of the brain.  The cerebellum, which is commonly referred to as the “little brain”, is associated with the coordination and regulation of movement and motor-vestibular movement and learning. 

Brain Injury Damages

Symptoms of a brain injury can be confused with other problems just as brain damages to the frontal lobes can result in various ongoing effects such as those listed below.

  • Dramatic increased or decreased talking
  • Impaired perception for taking risks or abiding by rules
  • Diminish or heightened outward socialization
  • More frequent attention deficient
  • Reduced problem solving abilities
  • Reduced creative abilites
  • Impaired spontaneous responses
  • Peculiar sexual habits if the Orbital frontal lobe is damaged
  • Reduced sexual drive if the Dorsolateral frontal lobe is damaged
  • Complete loss of smell
  • Complete loss of taste

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