The brain and the spinal cord make up the central nervous system. The central nervous system (CNS) works together with the peripheral nervous system (PNS), or the nerves, that connect to every part of the body. The brain consists of more than 100 billion nerves that communicate in trillions of synapses. Any damage or injury to the brain can have dramatic effects on the rest of the body.
Damage to the brain can impact the entire body. Even damage to a small part of the brain can permanently disable an individual. Any disruption to the blood and oxygen supply to the brain can cause damage very quickly and the more extensive the disruption, the more extensive the damage.
Brain injury is generally categorized as traumatic or non-traumatic. Traumatic brain injury usually involves a physical impact to the body or brain. Non-traumatic brain injury can be caused by illness, infection, lack of oxygen, heart attack, metabolic disorders, or aneurysms. Brain injury can be temporary or permanent and treatment varies depending on the cause of the brain injury.
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) usually involves direct force to the skull, head, or body. The most common cause of TBI involves car accidents. Other common causes of TBIs include falls, violence, and recreational and sporting injuries. Brain trauma can be temporary or permanent. Immediate treatment can give the injury victim the best chance for recovery.
A brain infarction, or cerebral infarction, is dead brain tissue caused by blockage of the arteries or limiting blood and oxygen supply to a part of the brain. The restricted blood and oxygen supply can cause an ischemic stroke and lead to necrotic tissue if the blood flow is not quickly restored. Narrowing of the arteries can be caused by a buildup of plaque (atheromatous stenosis), blood clot (thrombus), or other blockage (embolus).
A brain hemorrhage involves bleeding inside the skull. A brain hemorrhage is a type of stroke and can kill brain cells. There are different times of cerebral hemorrhages or intracranial hemorrhages, depending on where the bleeding is occurring. Intracranial hemorrhages can occur in birth injuries. Bleeding into the brain can cause permanent mental and physical disabilities, including cerebral palsy.
Hypoxic-ischemic brain injury is caused by oxygen deprivation to the brain. The more severe the ischemic injury and the longer the brain goes without oxygen, the more extensive the damage can be. This type of brain injury can be caused by a heart attack, carbon monoxide poisoning, drug overdose, or head trauma.
Anoxic brain injury is caused by a lack of oxygen supply to the brain. The brain is dependent on oxygen to function and brain cells begin to die after only a few minutes without oxygen.
Brain and Function of the Human Body
Thomas Edison said, “the chief function of the body is to carry the brain around.” Conversely, the body cannot carry itself without the function of the brain. The brain is one of the largest organs of the human body, and by far, the most complex. In many ways, the brain remains somewhat of a mystery in what it can do and how it can adapt.
The brain is made up of the cerebrum, brainstem, and cerebellum. The cerebrum has two hemispheres, each divided up into 4 lobes, the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, temporal lobe, and occipital lobe. The brainstem connects the brain to the spinal cord, and is made up of the pons, midbrain, and medulla oblongata. The cerebellum lies behind the brainstem.
Different parts of the brain have different general functions, with some overlap between lobes. The frontal lobe is responsible for judgment, attention, behavior, thought, perception, motor function, and problem-solving. The parietal lobe deals with cognition, handwriting, sensation, and body position. The temporal lobe handles hearing, visual memories, language, and some speech and hearing. The occipital lobe manages visual processing, visual-spatial processing, movement, and color recognition.
Skull and Protective Barriers
The cerebrum, cerebellum, and brain stem are surrounded by a layer of tissue called the meninges. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) circulates around the brain and provides a buffer between the hard skull and the sensitive brain tissue. The brain is also protected by the blood-brain barrier, made up of tight junctions that prevent blood-borne toxins from entering the brain. However, fat soluble molecules, like alcohol and drugs, can still pass through to the brain.
The skull and surrounding barriers can provide an amazing amount of protection for the brain but it can still be damaged through direct or indirect force. For example, a blow to the head, from a baseball, fall to the ground, or car accident with direct head trauma, can damage the skull and brain. Even indirect force, like whiplash or shaken baby syndrome, can damage the brain even if the skull is not directly impacted.
Brain and Neurological Health
The brain communicates with the rest of the body through a network of neurons that run through the body. The brain requires a lot of energy to run properly and consumes more energy than other organs, primarily consuming blood glucose for normal function. The brain only represents a small percentage of the human body weight but receives 15% of the blood output and 20% of oxygen consumption.
Brain and Physical Function
Proper brain function affects all parts of the body, and any damage or injury to the brain can manifest in various ways. The brain is responsible for:
- Motor control
- Sensory system
- Regulation of basic functions (heart rate and breathing)
Signs and Symptoms of Brain Injury or Disease
Signs and symptoms of brain injury, disease, or disorder depend on a number of factors, including location of the injury, age of the individual, and cause of the injury or disease.
- Attention deficit
- Memory problems
- Problem solving deficits
- Problems with judgment
- Loss of sense of time and space
- Decreased awareness
Motor Control Symptoms
- Poor balance
- Delayed movement
- Swallowing problems
- Lack of coordination
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Loss of the sense of smell or taste
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Limited range of vision
Language and Communication Symptoms
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty understanding speech
- Difficulty reading or writing
- Hesitant speech
- Decreased vocabulary
- Difficulty forming sentences
- Problems with reading and writing
Personality or Emotional Symptoms
- Lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Decreased motivation
- Mood swings
- Lack of inhibition
- Inappropriate sexual behavior
- Difficulty in social interactions
Neurodegenerative diseases can cause progressive damage to the brain function, impacting movement, memory, and cognition. These diseases often cause more damage as the individual gets older. Some common neurocognitive diseases include:
- Alcoholic dementia
- Vascular dementia
- Huntington's disease
- Syphilis-related dementia
Brain Injury and Damage
If you or a loved one suffered a brain injury after an accident or medical mistake, talk to an experienced medical malpractice or personal injury attorney about getting compensation for your injuries, medical bills, and pain and suffering. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.