Understanding TBI: Brain Injury Impact on Individual Functioning

Thomas Novack, PhD and Tamara Bushnik, PhD , Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center
Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury, Part 2: Brain Injury Impact on Individual Functioning

A traumatic brain injury interferes with the way the brain normally works. When nerve cells in the brain are damaged, they can no longer send infor­mation to each other in the normal way. This causes changes in the person’s behavior and abilities. The injury may cause different problems, depending upon which parts of the brain were damaged most.

There are three general types of problems that can happen after TBI: physical, cognitive and emotional/ behavioral problems. It is impossible to tell early on which specific problems a person will have after a TBI. Prob­lems typically improve as the person recovers, but this may take weeks or months. With some severe injuries changes can take many years.

Structure and function of the brain

The brain is the control center for all human activity, including vital pro­cesses (breathing and moving) as well as thinking, judgment, and emotional reactions. Understanding how different parts of the brain work helps us understand how injury affects a person’s abilities and behaviors.

Left vs. Right Brain

  • The brain is divided into two halves (hemispheres). The left half controls movement and sensation in the right side of the body, and the right half controls movement and sensation in the left side. Thus, damage to the right side of the brain may cause movement problems or weakness on the body’s left side.
  • For most people, the left half of the brain is responsible for verbal and logical functions including language (listening, reading, speaking, and writ­ing), thought and memory involving words.
  • The right half is responsible for nonverbal and intuitive functions such as putting bits of information together to make up an entire picture, recog­nizing oral and visual patterns and designs (music and art), and express­ing and understanding emotions.

 Brain Areas & Associated Functions

The brain is made up of six parts that can be injured in a head injury. The effect of a brain injury is partially determined by the location of the injury. Sometimes only a single area is affected, but in most cases of TBI multiple areas have been injured. When all areas of the brain are affected, the injury can be very severe.

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Posted on BrainLine March 23, 2010.

Understanding TBI was developed by Thomas Novack, PhD and Tamara Bushnik, PhD in collaboration with the Model System Knowledge Translation Center. Portions of this document were adapted from materials developed by the University of Alabama TBIMS, Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation, New York TBIMS, Mayo Clinic TBIMS, Moss TBIMS, and from Picking up the pieces after TBI: A guide for Family Members, by by Angelle M. Sander, PhD, Baylor College of Medicine (2002). Copyright © 2010 by University of Washington/MSKTC. 

Please check the MSKTC site for any recent updates on this article.

Comments (2)

The section about Left vs Right brain is interesting because it not only affects the opposite side of the body but it can affect the chemical reactions that ultimately affect both sides of the body: altering blood pressure, and heart rate, and temperature, which has the potential of leading to some serious outcomes.

Any brain function can be disrupted by brain trauma: excessive sleepiness, inattention, difficulty concentrating, impaired memory, faulty judgments, depression, irritability, mood swings, sleep disturbances, decreased libido , difficult to switch between two tasks, and slowed thinking. The type of brain damage in good faith from the effects of migraine, pain in other body parts, drugs, depression, preoccupation with financial loss, job status, loss of community status, loss of condition in the family, and any ongoing litigation may be task.The formibable A brain injury effects the patient may be reached or even exceeded by the effect on the patient's family. Brain injuries are known to cause extreme stress on family and interpersonal relationships. http://www.thebrainhealth.com/