Using your head after trauma

September 24, 2008

One of the most worrying concerns for patients who suffered a head trauma is how well they will recover. Now there may be increased hope for them and their families, as a new study shows that our brain can adapt to help improve our ability to cope with mental tasks, we just have to use more of it than before the trauma.

Canada’s Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care is an academic health sciences centre, internationally-renowned for its aging brain research, clinical treatments and cognitive rehabilitation strategies. Their latest research has found that brain injury patients used more of their brains for similar performance on mental tasks compared with healthy participants that they studied as a control.

Traumatic brain injury often results in impaired working memory, particularly executive control, as we have seen in previous reports, and in this study the patients completed a series of tasks that tested how they performed specific tasks. The patients underwent a series of trials in which they were asked to maintain or alphabetize a set of letters. They performed the tasks as well as the healthy control group, but they were using different areas of the brain to access the information and process it. They were, it is true, processing information more slowly, but this seemed to have no significant difference in their overall ability to perform the task in roughly the same time frame as the control group.

It gives hope to those suffering traumatic brain injury that recovery of normal tasks and abilities can be achieved although the authors were cautious in saying that such injury is often associated with chronic pain, depression, and anxiety, and that can influence the rate and extent of recovery.


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