A head injury traumatic enough to cause unconsciousness can result in widespread, permanent destruction of brain tissue. The finding is the result of research recently published in the journal Neurology — the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology — and helps to explain why some people who suffer Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) often experience irreversible personality changes following their injuries.
Scientists involved in the study gathered high-resolution MRI brain scans from 69 hospitalized traumatic brain injury patients whose head injuries ranged from mild to severe, and then conducted a computer analysis of these images. Computer analysis demonstrated that even patients with mild brain injuries and no apparent scarring had less total brain volume than normal following their accidents. They also noted that the total amount of tissue loss appeared to correlate to the length of time in which an injured person was unconscious following an accident — longer periods of unconsciousness tended to equate to greater losses in brain volume.
Authors of the study say it may explain why some people with brain injuries experience memory problems, mood changes, confusion and reduced information processing speed as a result of their injuries.
According the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1.4 million people in the U.S. suffer a traumatic brain injury each year. At least 5.3 million Americans need routine help to perform activities of daily living as a result of their brain injuries.
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