We studied employment 15 years after their original brain injury,and we found a number of factors that would predictwhether somebody was working or not among these Vietnam veterans we studied.This includes things like whether they had epilepsy or not--about half of our vets had epilepsy--whether they were hemiparetic or not.They had arm weakness. They couldn't use 1 of their arms well.Whether they had visual field defects--that is, they couldn't see very well to 1 side of space.But as prominent were memory deficits, which everybody is aware can occurafter a traumatic brain injury, and somewhat surprising to us--no more surprising but it was at the time--problems in social cognitionincluding aggression and interpersonal impairments--that is, a lack of skillsin relating to other people and in navigating social situations.So, 2 out of the 7 factors that would predict whether somebody was working or nothad to do with social behavior, so we were able to do that pretty wellin terms of predicting outcome, and it was additive.We knew, for example, if people had 4 or more of these factorsthey were not likely to work.If they had all 7 factors they were not working.
In a study of Vietnam veterans with TBI, Dr. Jordan Grafman showed that problems navigating social behaviors were the most definitive factors for not being able to return to work.
Jordan Grafman, PhD, is director of Brain Injury Research, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. His investigation of brain function and behavior contributes to advances in medicine, rehabilitation, and psychology, and informs ethics, law, philosophy, and health policy.
Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough, Justin Rhodes, and Erica Queen, BrainLine.
This program is made possible in part by a grant from the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which is dedicated to ensuring that post-9/11 injured service members, veterans, and their families make a successful transition.