Traumatic brain injury is when a person experiences a head trauma that results in a change in normal brain function. Traumatic brain injuries are rated as mild (also known as a concussion), moderate, or severe. Traumatic brain injury is associated with accelerated brain aging and is a risk factor for dementia.
Although mild traumatic brain injury usually does not lead to any neurological symptoms beyond three months, some people may continue to have a persistent postconcussive syndrome, including headaches, lack of concentration and memory changes, problems with sleep, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, and mental fatigue especially with cognitive exertion.
Moderate and severe traumatic brain injuries may result in permanent neurologic disability. Those who survive a moderate traumatic brain injury most often have lasting cognitive deficits. Those who survive a severe traumatic brain injury have an increased risk of mortality for a number of years after the event. Functional recovery may occur over years, though there are some who remain severely disabled.
Although the cognitive symptoms after a traumatic brain injury may be related to the trauma, that does not mean that there are not other potentially reversible factors that may be exacerbating the symptoms. A comprehensive evaluation can help clarify the causes for cognitive symptoms and develop a plan to tackle each, to help maximize cognitive function and quality of life. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and/or speech-language therapy are often recommended as part of a neurological rehabilitation program.
References and Resources
- McMillan, TM, Teasdale, GM, Weir, CJ, & Stewart, E. (2011). Death after head injury: the 13 year outcome of a case control study. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry, 82(8), 931-935. doi:10.1136/jnnp.2010.222232
- Barnes, DE, Kaup, A, Kirby, KA, Byers, AL, Diaz-Arrastia, R, & Yaffe, K. (2014). Traumatic brain injury and risk of dementia in older veterans. Neurology, 83(4), 312-319. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000000616
- Cole, JH, Leech, R, & Sharp, DJ, for the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. (2015). Prediction of brain age suggests accelerated atrophy after traumatic brain injury. Ann Neurol, 77(4), 571-581. doi:10.1002/ana.24367