Pushing the Boulder of Brain Injury Research

Research in TBI can seem slow. But even small steps can make an incredible difference in the quality of life of people with TBI.

What are the rewards in this type of work? One is that in most science, [David Hovda, Ph.D. UCLA Brain Injury Research Center] you think of science as a big boulder, and you're trying all of your career to push this boulder a little bit. And just to either--you--whether you're talking about Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or mental illness. I mean you're just trying to push a little part of this boulder. And traumatic brain injury, since we have so far to go, the boulder moves much faster. Because just a little increment makes such a tremendous difference. A good example is in --and this is not my field--in spinal cord injury-- I am speaking a little bit outside of my field, but the analogy is very good, in that you don't need to regrow the entire cord. If you could get 5 percent or 10 percent of this to regrow or just a little bit of connection, the ability for individuals to control their bladder or to improve their quality of life by leaps and bounds is tremendous. When I give a lecture to medical societies about what a concussion is and what happens to individuals that have a concussion and why they can have these problems, I can't tell you the number of times doctors will come up to me and I remember this one neurologist, he was a pediatric neurologist, and he was hit by his son's baseball bat when they were playing baseball, inadvertently. And he had a--He developed this high anxiety to flying in an airplane, and he couldn't fingure out why this has been going on for 2 months, since the injury. And--He said now--He says now I understand when this happened. And he was so overwhelmed that he knew he was going to recover from this. There wasn't-- He wasn't going crazy. He was actually going to make a difference. Those little scenarios are things that you can make a big difference at. It's--From a physician’s point of view, it's always "fun to save a life." But take that individual and improve their quality of life to a point to where they thought they would never be there is just a remarkable phenomenon.
Posted on BrainLine October 24, 2011.

Produced by Noel Gunther, Ashley Gilleland, and Brain King, BrainLine.

About the author: David Hovda, PhD

David Hovda, PhD is the director of the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center. He is past president of the National Neurotrauma Society and past president of the International Neurotrauma Society.  He has served as chair of study sections for the National Institute for Neurological Disease and Stroke.

David Hovda