An excellent study in the Journal of Neurotrauma (Browne KD et al. 2011) has shed light on another aspect of symptom onset – unconsciousness. Many insurance companies and some unread doctors, will insist that no brain injury can have occurred in an accident whereby the victim did not lose consciousness.
For many years it has been medical gospel that symptoms of a traumatic brain injury will appear immediately after the impact and will thereafter decrease over the passage of time through recovery.
In recent years a theory has been developed describing the brain as actively employing memory against incoming sensory data in order to avoid focusing on known factors and to try to predict instantaneously what is going to happen next. The brain has thus been called “a prediction computer.”
We know now that the brain is elastic throughout our entire lifetimes. That is, we are able to positively or negatively affect its structure by how we live. Illness and lack of cognitive stimulation result in a shrinking of key parts of the brain while physical exercise, cognitive stimulation, and healthy lifestyle tend to add brain mass.
In the last ten years a series of discoveries has changed our ideas about our mind/body connection. The evidence is building that one cannot distinguish the mind from the body, as previously thought.
There has been a great deal of advancement in the field of traumatic brain injury in the past twenty years, but unfortunately the insurance industry would just assume go back in time to the 1970’s and stay there.
The notion of “neuroplasticity,” that is the ability of the human brain to repair and rewire after injury or change in function, has undergone dramatic changes in the last 120 years. As early as the late 1800’s the father of modern psychology, William James, wrote extensively on the notion of neuroplasticity of the brain and quite accurately for his time.
A widely publicized study recently published in The Lancet, where three patients in a “vegetative state” showed signs of consciousness on EEG testing, will have important ramifications on brain injury rehabilitation.
By the time a patient gets to the emergency room, unconscious from a trauma, the primary injury to the brain – that is the structural damage to the brain tissue, neurons and blood vessels of the brain has already occurred.
I just read Douglas Fields fascinating new book “The Other Brain” in which he brings together all of the recent findings which are now causing the overlooked glia in the brain to be studied and appreciated.