BRAIN INJURY
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TRAUMATIC & NON-TRAUMATIC

Click on a part of the brain below to read more about that area.

Acquired Brain Injury is a broad classification of brain injury which occurs at or after birth and is not hereditary, congenital or caused by a degenerative illness.

There are two types of Acquired Brain Injury:
Traumatic Brain Injury and Non-Traumatic Brain Injury.

In traumatic brain injury, the brain may be injured in a specific location or the injury may be diffused to many different parts of the brain. It is this indefinite nature of brain injury that makes treatment unique for each individual patient. In the past twenty years, a great deal has been learned about brain function, and we learn more every day. We can make guesses about the nature of the problems an individual may have from knowing the location of a lesion. Diagnostic procedures such as CT scans and MRIs can also provide information about a brain injury.

 

Rehabilitation specialists can also learn about an injury by observing the day to day activities of the patient. All the activities we perform each day, whether physical or mental, are directed by different parts of our brains.

To better understand how the rehabilitation process works, we will guide you through the different parts of the brain and indicate some of the functions and problems resulting from injury.

 

The brain has many parts, including the cerebral cortex, brain stem and cerebellum. By listing some of the functions of each part of the brain, we will provide you with an overview of what problems occur after injury to these parts. It is important to understand that the brain functions as a whole by interrelating its component parts. The injury may only disrupt a particular step or, out of sequence, can reveal the problems associated with the injury.

 

Below is a list of functions and deficits or problems revealed when injury occurs at particular locations.

Frontal Lobe

Most anterior,
right under the forehead

Functions:

  • How we know what we are doing within our environment (consciousness)

  • How we initiate activity in response to our environment

  • How we make judgements about what occurs in our
    daily activities

  • Controls our emotional response

  • Controls our expressive language

  • Assigns meaning to the
    words we choose

  • Involves word associations

  • Memory for habits and
    motor activities

Observed Problems:

  • Loss of simple movement of various body parts (Paralysis)

  • Loss of spontaneity in interacting with others

  • Loss of flexibility in thinking

  • Persistence of a single
    thought (Perseveration)

  • Inability to focus on task (Attending)

  • Mood changes
    (Emotionally Labile)

  • Changes in social behavior

  • Changes in personality

  • Difficulty with problem solving

  • Inability to express language (Broca’s Aphasia)

Parietal Lobe

Near the back and
top of the head

Functions:

  • Location for visual attention

  • Location for touch perception

  • Goal-directed voluntary movements

  • Manipulation of objects

  • Integration of different
    senses that allows for
    understanding a single concept

Observed Problems:

  • Inability to attend to more than one subject at a time

  • Inability to name an object (Anomia)

  • Inability to locate the words for writing (Agraphia)

  • Problems with reading (Alexia)

  • Difficulty with drawing objects

  • Difficulty in distinguishing left from right

  • Difficulty with doing mathematics (Dyscalculia)

  • Lack of awareness of certain body parts and/or surrounding space (Apraxia) leading to difficulty in self-care

  • Inability to focus attention

  • Difficulty with eye/hand coordination

Brain Stem

Deep inside brain,
leads to spinal cord

Functions:

  • Breathing

  • Heart Rate

  • Swallowing

  • Reflexes to seeing and hearing (Startle Response)

  • Controls sweating, blood pressure, digestion, temperature (Autonomic Nervous System)

  • Affects level of alertness

  • Ability to sleep

  • Sense of balance
    (Vestibular Function)

Observed Problems:

  • Decreased vital capacity in breathing, important for speech

  • Swallowing food and water (Dysphagia)

  • Difficulty with organization and perception of the environment

  • Problems with balance
    and movement

  • Dizziness and nausea (Vertigo)

  • Sleeping difficulties (Insomnia, Sleep Apnea)

Temporal Lobes

Side of head above ears

Functions:

  • Hearing ability

  • Memory acquisition

  • Some visual perceptions

  • Categorization of objects

Observed Problems:

  • Difficulty recognizing faces (Prosopagnosia)

  • Difficulty understanding spoken words (Wernicke’s Aphasia)

  • Disturbance with selective attention to what is seen
    and heard

  • Difficulty with identification of objects and verbalization
    about objects

  • Short-term memory loss

  • Interference with long-term memory

  • Increased or decreased interest in sexual behavior

  • Inability to categorize objects (Categorization)

  • Right lobe damage can cause persistent talking

  • Increased aggressive behavior

Occipital Lobe

Most posterior,
at the back of the head

Functions:

  • Vision

Observed Problems:

  • Defects in vision
    (Visual Field Cuts)

  • Difficulty with locating
    objects in environment

  • Difficulty with identifyiing colors (Color Agnosia)

  • Production of hallucinations

  • Visual illusions—inaccurately seeing objects

  • Word blindness—inability to recognize words

  • Difficulty in recognizing
    drawn objects

  • Inability to recognize the movement of an object (Movement Agnosia)

  • Difficulties with reading
    and writing

Cerebellum

Located at the
base of the skull

Functions:

  • Coordination of voluntary movement

  • Balance and equilibrium

  • Some memory for
    reflex motor acts

Observed Problems:

  • Loss of ability to coordinate fine movements

  • Loss of ability to walk

  • Inability to reach out and grab objects

  • Tremors

  • Dizziness (Vertigo)

  • Slurred speech (Scanning Speech)

  • Inability to make rapid movements

Having a good general understanding of the brain and its functions is very important for brain injured people and their families. Identifying individual problems will speed treatment and rehabilitation.

Please note: The information on this website is not meant to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should consult your health care provider regarding specific medical concerns or treatment.