The brain essentially controls everything we do from our physical actions to our emotional and mental states. It governs how we perceive the world around us and how we communicate with others. It oversees our involuntary actions such as breathing and heartbeat. It even determines our personalities and how we store and recall memories. Because of all this, it’s easy to see how damage to the brain can have a huge impact on a person’s life.
While we know brain injuries can have mild to severe adverse effects, it’s hard to determine just what those will be and how they’ll manifest. Different parts of the brain affect different functions, so symptoms of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) will depend on the location and severity. Adverse effects related to thinking and memory are common among those with TBIs, and they can last anywhere from a few days to the rest of their lives. Here are some of the most important things to know about TBIs and memory loss.
How common are TBIs?
Traumatic brain injuries are common and frequently caused by things like blows to the head or sudden jolts. From 2006 to 2014, the number of TBI emergency room visits increased by 53%. The most common type of brain injury is a concussion, which is caused by a sudden movement that makes the brain bounce inside the skull. These frequently occur in sports injuries and other accidents. While it’s considered a “mild” brain injury, it’s still taken extremely seriously. If left untreated, a concussion can lead to adverse effects like weakness, slurred speech, and long periods of unconsciousness that may affect memory. TBIs can also include injuries like skull fractures, contusions, and penetrating injuries.
Falls are the most common causes of brain injuries, and these are especially common in children and the elderly. Being struck by or against hard objects is the second most common cause. Car accidents account for the majority of TBI hospitalizations. Unsafe driving, operating machinery under the influence, and not wearing head protection during sports or dangerous activities all increase one’s risk for brain injury.
Repeated brain injuries can greatly increase one’s risk for degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. This condition slowly destroys brain cells and nerve connections within the brain, which greatly harms memory and other functions. For more information, see these Alzheimer’s statistics.
Kinds of Memory
Memory is a complex ability, and it’s difficult to predict how a brain injury might affect it. The two most basic kinds of memory are short-term and long-term memory. Short-term memory affects how we learn new information and recall recent events. Long-term memory affects how we recall information from our past. It’s common for those with memory loss after a head injury to have difficulty with short-term memory but still clearly remember events from years ago.
Brain injuries can also affect prospective memory, or the ability to “remember to remember.” This applies to things like planned tasks, appointments, or remembering important days and events.
Memory loss can be treated in a variety of ways depending on the injury and severity of the problem. Brain tumors causing memory issues can be surgically removed or treated with chemotherapy. Cognitive therapy and exercises can be used to strengthen memory. Certain head injuries may need to be treated surgically to drain fluids from the skull. Sometimes simply taking or switching to new medications can alleviate memory problems.
Those with memory loss after an injury may want to alter their routines for the duration of the problems. Using digital assistants to keep track of tasks and remember appointments can be a great help. Eliminating distractions and repeating important information can also help commit it to memory. It might even be appropriate to seek help outside of the medical field.
For example, if you or a family member suffered a brain injury due to a car crash or other accident, you may have a good shot at a personal injury claim. This is especially true if your injury was due to the fault or negligence of another party. At the least, you may be entitled to reimbursement for medical costs. Anything that can help during such a trying time is worth pursuing.